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Gut health: Making a complex topic simple for consumers

Article-Gut health: Making a complex topic simple for consumers

Gut Health roundtable.jpg
Exploring key points from the Vitafoods Europe 2021 ‘Gut Health’ roundtable discussion.

At Vitafoods Europe 2021, a roundtable discussion tackled the topic of how to best communicate information about gut health to consumers. This interactive discussion led to some very thought-provoking ideas.

Key Highlights:

  • Consumers’ understanding now goes beyond ‘good bacteria’ to an interest in ‘-biotic’ terms
  • From medical fixes to lifestyle choices, gut health plays a role at both ends of the spectrum
  • Science is on the verge of bringing the answers to unlock product claims
  • Marketing and branding gut health requires a new level of creativity to support in the short term
  • Gut health education will be a journey both for medical practitioners as well as end-consumers

Consumers express interest in ‘-biotic’ terms
The term ‘good bacteria’ has helped to push the industry forward and led consumers to understand the positive effects bacteria can have on human health. Now we see a sense of ‘-biotic’ terms generating general interest—such as probiotic, prebiotic, postbiotic, synbiotic. However, although there is an interest in these terms, it is still confusing for consumers. At Vitafoods Europe, even the term ‘eubiotics’ was being mentioned in the show floor in relation to human health.

Medical fixes and/or lifestyle choices
Products surrounding gut health can be seen as either a medicinal fix or a lifestyle the consumer chooses to implement, focusing more on preventive measures. Re-purchase rate of products, independently of being used for ‘curative’ or ‘preventive’ measures, were noted to be high during the roundtable discussion—demonstrating gut health plays a key role at both ends of the spectrum.

Science is on the verge of bringing the answers to unlock product claims
When it comes to regulatory issues, the levels of rejections happening in Europe based on product characterisation such as dosage, strains, mechanisms of action among other reasons is high, with numbers quoted in the discussion being as high as 400 rejections. The group agreed that the science is on the verge of bringing these answers to meet regulation requirements.

Marketing and branding gut health requires a new level of creativity
In Europe, brand owners find themselves having to remove medical terms, as well as the term probiotics due to regulatory requirements, raising the question: how to explain the benefits of products to consumers? One of the solutions found by the industry to be able to claim health benefits to consumers is by adding ingredients  to the finished product such as vitamin D, which is well recognised by consumers. Or by creating simple, consumer-friendly brand messages such as what was achieved with communicating ‘good bacteria’.

Gut health education
Education was brought up as a topic of great importance—not only education to end consumers, but also to health care professionals, to equip them to advise best about the benefits of gut health and nutraceutical products in aiding a healthy digestive system.

The information around ‘gut health’ is extensive, but the industry is finding that consumers are becoming more educated and interested in reading quality information rather than summarised insights, which can sometimes cause more confusion than lead to clarity. Finding engaging, simple and motivating ways will be key.

Into the future of gut health
Gut health will be one of the next major advancements in medicinal treatment, preventive health and overall wellbeing—where science, medicine, nutraceuticals and food/consumer products will come together. And  claims are approved, we’ll start to see new launches for products in gut-skin, gut-lung, gut-brain intersections benefiting human health and wellbeing.