Since digestive health was dubbed a “mega trend” back in 2010, gut health’s influence has been growing in the scientific, nutrition and consumer arenas. Digestive health is a well-established area of interest in the nutrition space, with continuously emerging science on the gut microbiome highlighting its importance for overall health, in areas ranging from sleep quality to cognition. Consumers are even more mindful of their health and well-being during the pandemic, and are consciously eating and drinking nutritious products in order to stay healthy.
The general population increasingly understands the relationship between gastrointestinal health and overall health. For those who are knowledgeable about the role that the gut microbiome plays in immunity, increased demand will also extend to prebiotic and probiotic food, as well as drinks such as yogurts or fermented products.
The digestive health market is undergoing an NPD boom with innovation happening in a diverse range of categories. Dairy has been leading the digestive health innovation on the global level over the past five years. According to Innova Market Insights’ database, more than 1 in 3 of the food and beverage products featuring digestive health claims in 2019 were dairy products. The market is also getting more fragmented as products in other categories are increasingly taking more shelf space. The share of products featuring digestive health claims has been observed to be growing not only in specialised nutrition, such as baby food and sports nutrition, but also in mainstream categories, including soft drinks and hot drinks.
Products with a Digestive Health Claim
There is a significant market opportunity for manufacturers that can combine prebiotic fiber with dairy products due to clear consumer interest in this area. Besides dairy and dairy alternative products, beverages—both hot and cold—have the potential to emerge as on-trend vehicles for novel fibre ingredients. A new generation of sophisticated fibre snacks with palatability far superior to that of past offerings could be on the horizon.
Probiotics and prebiotics still dominate the space and drive NDP as ingredient suppliers explore their potential. According to Innova Trends Survey 2020, 51% of global respondents know probiotics and 39% know prebiotics. In general, consumers are becoming more familiar with ingredients contributing to digestive health. Notably, the share of food and beverage launches with probiotics or prebiotics claims has grown in recent years.
Different fibres feature their own characteristics related to digestive health. Some fermentable fibres are prebiotic, meaning they selectively promote some microbes within the microbiota universe. This leads to the selective growth of beneficial bacteria; bifidobacteria are a marker for this. Furthermore, the effect of these prebiotic fermentable fibres positively influences hunger-satiety (energy intake), mood and much more.
While consumer interest in digestive health is increasing, mouthfeel is also important. An Innova Market Insights survey reveals that 7 in 10 global consumers say that texture gives food and beverage a more interesting experience. Fibre-enriched products can tend to have a grainy or bland taste, posing obstacles to winning over the consumer. Ingredients that can improve texture and have a mild and natural taste help manufacturer deliver an appealing mouthfeel, texture and taste in product reformulation applications.
Although probiotics and prebiotics dominate public consciousness in the gut health market, several other nutrients can also provide benefits. Furthermore, many of these compounds support gut health via different mechanisms of action to pre- and probiotics, providing another dimension for the formulation of gut health products.
Regardless of the many approaches to gut health, be it probiotics, personalized gut testing or case-specific nutritional interventions, there is ample space for research and innovation. Ranging from brain functions to even skin health, unlocking the microbiome’s untapped potential promises to deliver improvements for overall health.
Chang Liu is a market analyst at Innova Market Insights, a leading international market research company that tracks new food and beverage product innovations. She holds a master’s in food technology, specialized in dairy science and technology. She is always interested in finding the link between technology, innovation, and new product development. Together with a global team of analysts, Chang is constantly looking for the next big trends.
Chang is a featured speaker in the Vitafoods Virtual Summit, ‘Transforming Gut Health: Immune support, synbiotics and future opportunities,’ taking place on Tuesday 15 September. Click here to learn more or get registered.