While these types of functional foods fortified with probiotics are moving from niche products in specialty stores to mass retail and grocery store chains, consumer awareness of probiotics is still catching up.
According to a recent survey, 83% of consumers are familiar with probiotics and 53% think that they have a positive impact on health. In addition, a similar survey found that “probiotics” is a term that consumers associate with digestive health, but also other benefits including immune health and general wellbeing.
“While consumers have come a long way in their knowledge of probiotics and digestive health, there is still room to grow,” Don Cox, director of R&D, GanedenBC30, Kerry, told FoodNavigator-USA.
Dairy products gave a face to probiotics
Probiotics have been popularized by the dairy category with yogurt, kefir, and quark as consumers have come to link these chilled fermented products with digestive health benefits (even though ‘fermented’ doesn’t necessarily mean the product contains probiotics).
The same sort of probiotic messaging is now showing up in better-for-you snacks, functional beverages, and children’s products thanks to the development of resistant spore-forming probiotic strains that can withstand extreme pH, temperatures, and pressurized processing compared to vegetative probiotic cells, shared Cox.
GanedenBC30, for example, is highly stable and offers up to three years of shelf life. It has a natural protective shell that shields it from both stomach acids as well as food-processing conditions like heat, shear, HTST and HPP pasteurization, according to Cox.
“This increased stability opens up new avenues of innovation because it means it can be used not just in chilled dairy products, but also in applications such as non-dairy beverages, frozen foods, cereals and oatmeal, baked goods, better-for-you snacks, and even hot drinks,” Cox said.
Waking up sleepy categories
Probiotics can help invigorate slower growth categories in the center-store such as hot and cold breakfast cereals, granola, and pancake and baking mixes, by adding a value-added health benefit.
Examples of products formulated with GanedenBC30 include:
- Lola Bars – A range of plant protein + probiotic snack bars
- Rob’s Brands: Vegan Rob's Probiotic Cauliflower Puffs
- Bigelow: Herb Plus Probiotic, hot beverage tea that supports healthy digestion
- Flapjacked: Probiotic and protein shake with Greek yogurt
- Betty Lou’s: Probiotic bites (nutritional bars) that support digestive health
- Purely Elizabeth: Probiotic granola
- Good Spread: Probiotic unsweetened peanut butter
Recently-launched protein and probiotics hot oatmeal by thinkThin for example contains 1 billion CFUs to support digestion and 10 grams of protein.
“It’s recommended to take a probiotic daily, so incorporating them into routine meals like breakfast makes this easier for consumers – a prime example being probiotic oatmeal products from thinkThin, Earnest Eats, and Three Bears,” Cox said.
Adding a probiotic boost to indulgent categories such as chocolate products is another way to inject some growth into the category and is trend that is growing within the confectionery sector, Cox added.
Will probiotics be as big as protein?
While many products such as thinkTHIN protein and probiotic oatmeal are promoting both health attributes on its labels, consumers aren’t necessarily savvy to certain jargon such as CFUs (colony-forming units) and specific probiotic strains, according to Cox.
“Appreciation of the benefits of probiotics for gut health is growing, but there are still a number of common myths surrounding best formulation practices (the biggest one being the perception that all probiotic strains are the same),” Cox said.
“Consumers aren’t as educated yet on what CFU count is efficacious for specific probiotic strains, but they are familiar with the term ’probiotics’ and understand they can have a positive impact on health. For this reason, we see more manufacturers claim ‘probiotics’ on packaging rather than specific CFU counts.”