Opportunities for digestive health products are moving beyond probiotics, embracing prebiotics

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Expo west Probiotics Prebiotics Digestive health

As consumers learn more about digestive health and all the implications that it has for the wellbeing of their bodies and minds, they are looking for products that go beyond probiotics – creating a booming digestive health category that is ripe for innovation.

“Consumer awareness of gut health has never been so high. … People are realizing today is that every benefit that we are seeking – whether it is better skin, better energy, better health from a specific disease or pain  -- it all comes back to do we have better digestive health,”​ Ashley Koff, CEO of The Better Nutrition Program, told FoodNavigator-USA at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim earlier this month.

She explained though that this increased awareness has come increased frustration about how to improve gut health effectively.

“We have never been more frustrated because there is so much info about what can actually create digestive health, and a lot of people are saying, ‘I tried this and it is not working.’ Or, ‘I took a probiotic. I don’t feel any better,’”​ she said.

As a result, she added, consumers are starting to recognize that gut health is more complex than dropping a probiotic and as such are looking for more complex and complete solutions, which might include probiotics but also the prebiotics necessary for the probiotics to thrive in their systems.

“What we are hearing about is more prebiotics and one of the reasons for that is these little good bacteria [probiotics] they need to be fed, but what we also understand is when they are fed and when we get in prebiotics – the prebiotics actually work with gut lining. So, that mucosal layer and that integrity is critical to digestion and absorption. So, what we are staring to learn more about is the microbiome is really complex and we need the prebiotics and the probiotics and we need to make sure the rest of our diet is complementing the other nutrients we are getting,”​ Koff said.

What this means for the marketplace is an increased demand and opportunity for products that blend complementary ingredients and a more thoughtful approach to whether adding probiotics to a finished product will actually provide benefit, Koff said.

“Instead of just dropping an ingredient into ice cream or dropping an ingredient into a supplement,”​ think about how the finished product will actually help consumers as they customize their overall nutrition plan and diet, she explained.

For example, Koff noted that the supplement company Country Life introduced at Expo West Gut Connection, ,which is a whole food fermented supplement line that offers ingredients beyond probiotics that are helpful for digestion.

She also noted that overnight oats are a good example of products that blends the prebiotic benefits of uncooked oats with beneficial probiotics from the yogurt base with which they are combined.

She also suggested that manufacturers offering products for digestive health likely will make a bigger impact if they also help educate consumers about the benefits beyond symptom relief.

“What I think we will see is the move to how do we put all the ingredients together to actually accelerate digestive health and those end benefits. So, I think, instead of saying, ‘O these are the nutrients you need for brain health,’ and we are already seeing in the gut health products, is when you take care of the gut health, that is going to be what gives you energy. That is going to be what helps with immunity. That is going to be what helps you with skin,”​ she said. “So, I think we are going to see more solutions like that popping up.”

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