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Digestive health market opportunities—podcast

Audio-Digestive health market opportunities—podcast

Globally, the digestive health market is growing rapidly, fuelled by consumer demand for innovative, natural solutions for gut wellness.

While gut health and the microbiome have been trending in the nutraceutical industry for many years, the growth in the market accelerated incrementally during the global pandemic. Consumers increasingly understand the connection between digestive health and whole body wellbeing, and are looking for ways to bolster their immune resilience, mental performance and much more—all by focusing on the gut. This month, Vitafoods Insights focuses on the opportunities in the digestive health market, including whitespace, regulatory challenges, and consumer demands.

Tune in to hear more about:

  • Expected growth rates for the digestive health space overall, and the probiotics and microbiome markets in particular.
  • Important considerations around consumer messaging and communication strategies.
  • Regulatory concerns and what to expect in the years ahead.
  • Consumer understanding of the interconnected nature of gut health with issues such as immune function and brain health.

Featured voices:

  • Nicole Jansen, Innova Markets Insights
  • Graham Robinson, GIRACT
  • Indy Kaur, PlantFutures
  • George Paraskevakos, IPA
  • Florent Eveillard, Alcimed

Vitafoods Insights Podcast

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Podcast transcript:

Vitafoods Insights 00:06
Welcome to the Vitafoods Insights Podcast. Join us as we explore the latest science and innovation, helping the global health and nutrition industry, connect, develop and progress. Today's host is Heather Granato, Vice President of content.

Heather 00:25
Where it used to be uncouth to talk about the digestive system, in the past several years, we’ve seen gut health move to center stage. Whether it’s recognition of the profound impact that the microbiome has on our general wellbeing, the interconnection between gut health and immune resilience, or media coverage of everything fermented—think kombucha, kimchi, kefir and more—we’re living in a new era. We’re not just trusting our gut, we’re doing everything possible to make it happy. In fact, Innova’s Nicole Jansen commented on the growth of the market in her keynote presentation at Vitafoods Europe 2021.

Nicole 01:02
What you can really see is that the whole gut health trend is really expanding fast. So it's not even only about pre- and probiotics. It's about post-biotics that are coming up. Consumers, they understand more about it too. And 2 in 5 global consumers actually consider having a healthy gut and microbiome. It's most important to achieve immune health, it's really not just about gut health. It's a whole wellness trend that is kind of evolving out of it. It's about the skin, the brain that it makes you feel good. So there's so much more beyond just the health of the gut, I think.

Heather 01:35
Market research firm Fortune Business Insights predicts the global digestive health market will grow at a CAGR of 7.9% to hit 71.9 5 billion USD by 2027. There are several factors spurring the growth. One is the increasing incidence of digestive disorders now seen in up to 40% of the global population. Another is the rate of other health concerns from heart health to immune function, and mental wellbeing, all of which have a gut related component. Further, the ageing population and an interest among consumers in more natural solutions are also at hand impacting this market. The sector includes fibre, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, vitamins, minerals and specialty compounds. However, perhaps no ingredient category is as dominant in the digestive health space as probiotics. Data from markets and markets puts the global probiotics market at 61.1 billion USD and projects a CAGR of 8.3% to reach 91.1 billion by 2026. Sales are rising in every sector, from functional foods and animal health to the pharmaceutical and supplement markets. The onset of COVID-19 only accelerated the growth trend, with the market research firm seeing sales of probiotics, rising 33% During the first year of the pandemic. In a recent report, FMCG Gurus presented data showing that across the globe, 59% of consumers have purchased probiotic products in the last 12 months. This has increased by almost 10% over the past two years. The market research firm also found consumers were more likely to purchase food and drink products with probiotics compared to supplements. Yoghurt and yoghurt drinks are among the most popular forms, fitting into the 'better for you' snacking space as well. The continued rapid growth of the market poses unique challenges and opportunities for the nutraceutical industry. In a presentation at Vitafoods Europe 2021, Graham Robinson of GIRACT called out some of the unmet needs and challenges.  

Graham 03:41
Legislation and regulations are still an issue in many parts of the world. The price structure, probiotic cultures is still very opaque. We speak to a lot of end users. In fact, a lot of the work GIRACT does is speaking to manufacturers of food and beverage products and supplement products, and asking them about the ingredients they use, and why and what challenges they have and how much they pay for them. And what's clear actually is in a lot of applications, you can use the same organism, use the same probiotic culture, but with a different claim, it will carry a different premium. And so that actually makes pricing of probiotic cultures on the supply side quite opaque. And this is still something that the industry struggles with. Supply chain logistics are okay but this is an ongoing concern. Consumer awareness was an issue up until the pandemic, although the consumer is now much more familiar with terms like immunity and inevitably it will become much more familiar with probiotic products, probiotic cultures and their health benefits.

Heather 04:37
It's important to realise how much terminology counts in this category. The term 'good bacteria' was important to help consumers understand the positive effects bacteria can have on human health. We're now hearing about probiotics, prebiotics, post-biotics and synbiotics. However, without clear communication, expect consumers to get confused or worse, turned off. What are these communication challenges? And can the industry move forward to effectively communicate with consumers about the benefits of products for digestive health? Indy Kaur, founder of PlantFutures, tackled the subject in a roundtable at Vitafoods Europe 2021.

Indy 05:16
The size is probably moving faster than we can take consumers on the journey, and also with branding and marketing, for example. So I think a key barrier does come down to the claims really, and there have been numerous amount of claims submitted for approval, but they're not coming through just yet. There's more research to be done. So, one of it is a time factor. But then also as test methods start to improve as well, so that we can submit adequate results or kind of reporting, would actually help to see some of those claims through. So, I think there was a case of timing when it comes to making claims and certain products, so, it is just still a space to watch out for. But we may just need to take a bit of a sort of like a steady journey to head towards that. So really, it's it is what we can do in the short term to help consumers with some of those things.

Heather 06:07
Speaking of claims in the digestive health category, probiotics has been a tough one. The International Probiotics Association, in 2021, launched a regulatory advice tool, designed to help marketers understand what can be a challenging landscape. IPA’s George Paraskevakos gave insight into the need for such a tool.

George 06:28
So what's happened is a regulatory divergence basically has grown across the world, a sort of confusion because as the definition was interpreted, then that particular countries regulated created regulations or legislation on how to look at probiotics that want to be commercialised in these regions. So depending on the country, probiotics can be qualified either as foods or supplements or medical devices, and then even in some countries have to be registered as drugs. Then in different regions and countries, you can report their benefits as being very generic, like supporting digestive health, or you're allowed to be more specific and even therapeutic. So the commercialised route to market in these different regions and countries around the world vary as well. So there's a pre-licencing or pre-approval process in some countries, there's a notification and others, self determination or even post policing. So what happens is this confusions constitutes a medley of very different, and sometimes very complex requirements that companies need to basically navigate around.

Heather 07:41
In addition, expect to see things shifting across Europe as the European Commission and individual countries offer new approvals for probiotic claims and ingredients. We’ll have more on that topic in just a couple of weeks in a new podcast interview with industry consultant David Pineda Ereno. But to wrap up our look at the digestive health market, let’s focus on the microbiome. Every aspect of diet, from food to supplements to medicines, has an impact on the microbiome, and each person’s microbiome is as individual as a fingerprint. The microbiome itself is the focus of cutting-edge research, which should open new areas of opportunity in the years ahead. Florent Eveillard, an analyst with Alcimed, authored a paper on the topic. Among the promising research areas he called out were the gut-organ axis, healthy ageing and longevity, and immune function. He also notes there are unique research gaps and challenges, such as how much the microbiome impacts disease development, as it may not be a root cause, but a mediating factor. Ultimately, he expects to see the increased interest in the microbiome market to boost it to 9 billion USD globally by 2025.

Florent 08:51
With the trends of increasing awareness, research output and commercialization, as well as improved awareness from consumers and regulators, the opportunities for microbiome product offerings are immense. Despite more research needed to elucidate the microbiome association with diseases and its integration strategy, the future of microbiome will be promising.

Heather 09:11
Gut health is expected to be at the forefront of preventive health and medical treatment—where science, medicine, nutraceuticals, and foods come together. As research substantiates the safety and efficacy of products to support digestive health, and the regulatory environment allows for clear and non-misleading claims, expect to see new launches fuel the digestive health market today and well into the future. For more on the topic of digestive health in the nutraceutical industry, visit

Vitafoods Insights 09:42
Thank you for tuning in, and don't forget to check the show notes that will allow you to link to the information discussed in today's podcast, as well as any sponsorship opportunities. Be sure to stay tuned, subscribe, and even suggest to a friend.