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Probiotic landscape shifting in Europe – podcast

Audio-Probiotic landscape shifting in Europe – podcast

While Europe has been a challenging market for probiotics marketing and claims, shifts at the European Commission level may open up new opportunities.

While probiotics sales are growing in most countries around the globe, Europe has seen a less robust uptake, constrained perhaps by a regulatory environment that disallows most claims for probiotic products on pack and in marketing. However, there may be positive news on the horizon for companies seeking to communicate the health benefits of their probiotic-containing products. In this podcast, David Pineda Ereño, founder of DPE International Consulting and a consultant to the International Probiotics Association (IPA), shares his take on the possible shifts that could happen at a European level, as well the positive changes already taking place in markets such as Italy and the Czech Republic.

Tune in to hear more about:

  • How the current landscape is constraining growth for probiotics products in Europe.
  • The potential for finished product companies to communicate the health benefits of probiotic products to consumers.
  • Which countries offer whitespace opportunities for CPG companies in the probiotics space.
  • Why companies should collaborate to push for regulatory change.


David Pineda Ereno podcast circle image.jpg David Pineda Ereño, managing director, DPE International Consulting

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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
Around the world, probiotic sales are growing and consumers are seeking products to support their microbiome and enhance immune resilience. Well, perhaps not everywhere around the world, as the most recent Nutrition Business Journal Global Supplement report found probiotic sales were losing steam in Europe, due in part to consumer fatigue and certainly the continued challenge of EFSA's reluctance to approve any claims related to probiotics. However, there may be positive news on the horizon for companies seeking to communicate the health benefits of their probiotic containing products. I spoke with David Pineda Ereño, founder of DPE International Consulting, who has more than 14 years of experience providing strategic and regulatory advice to companies, trade associations and government bodies in the food, nutrition and health industry globally. David has consulted with the International Probiotics Association for several years and has a unique perspective into the complex and changing landscape of probiotic regulations across Europe. We first looked at the broad landscape on probiotics from EFSA and the European Commission.

David 01:31
As you know, Heather, probiotics in the EU markets are broadly marketed, however, when it comes to communicating about products containing food and food supplements, currently, the EU legislation doesn't specify and specific labelling provisions. However, the EU regulation on nutrition and health claims requires that claims that are used in food and food service need to be approved prior to their use. Currently, the European Food Safety Authority has not approved or provided positive opinion in relation to the dossiers required to use health claim in relation to probiotics as such. However, there is one health claim that has been approved in relation to life cultures in yogurt fermented milk, which links with improving lactose digestion.

Heather 02:22
What does that mean then for companies that are looking to market finished products that contain probiotics? What does that impact what they put on their labels or even in their marketing materials?

David 02:33
Due to the fact that EFSA has not provided positive opinion in relation to use of probiotics as such, in food and food supplements, as a result of it, European Commission consider it to be an authorised health claim. So, the interpretation of the European Commission has been followed by many European member states, so not allowing the use of the term probiotic on the label. However, yes, indeed, the name of this specific microorganism can be used and include list of ingredients. The opportunities for using probiotics or marketing probiotics in Europe are very broad. The European consumer is very familiar with the benefits of probiotics, it has been even more evident during the pandemic, where we can see that the sales of probiotics are increasing.

Heather 03:27
So, what then would be the potential for CPG companies in Europe who are interested in getting into the digestive health space, for example, with products that include probiotics?

David 03:39
As I said, European consumers are obviously very familiar with the benefits of probiotics, they are increasingly using them. Of course, what we are seeing at the same time, is that there's an increased number of member states that are shifting towards very positive approach towards the use of the term probiotics. During the pandemic, we have seen that consumers are pursuing more and more probiotics and we can see that many of them are being marketed with such term. And this is a very positive approach or a positive trend in relation to easier consumer understanding of probiotics.

Heather 04:15
Well, let's dive into that a little bit. What changes are you seeing in terms of individual countries in Europe making changes to what could be said about probiotics on product packaging or in marketing?

David 04:27
Already Italy, and also the Czech Republic have been allowing the use of the term probiotic. In fact, Italy, in addition, is in a unique situation in Europe, which also allows the use of claim in relation that it promotes the balance of the intestinal flora, which is very important. So there is, obviously, a very important opportunity for companies looking at Italian market. But more recently now, we see countries like Spain, have at least a formal position allowing the use of the term probiotic in food and food supplements, applying the European principle or mutual recognition. Also, Denmark and the Netherlands have published as well, from a position allowing the use of the term probiotics. In the case of Denmark, specifically only in food supplements. But in addition, other countries like Malta, Bulgaria, Greece, although not formally, but understand that they also permitting the use of the term probiotics in products. And we see also in other markets like France, or Belgium, products in the market with using as well the term probiotics in their labels.

Heather 05:35
That's very exciting. What do you expect to see then, in 2022, in terms of changes, maybe at a bigger level, whether through EFSA or even Codex related to probiotics?

David 05:47
Well, their mark when they're publishing their opinion, and positive approach the use of the term probiotic they also requested formally the European Commission to clarify its views. Considering that things are changing, the consumer understanding of their probiotics has been increasing, and due to the current dynamic and the situation, with increased consumption and understanding of probiotics, it will be expected for the commission to come up with a statement. However, the indications have been provided by the Commission more recently do not seem that it is a priority for them to come out with a statement, but we shall see what the coming months will bring. On the other hand, at international level, there is proposal for developing Codex guidelines on the use of probiotics as an ingredient in food and food supplements. And indeed, it is expected that in the second half of this year, that decision to be taken in relation to this proposal for new work, which would mean to develop internationally harmonised guidelines on the term probiotics.

Heather 06:52
So, to wrap up, how important is it that companies work really collaboratively potentially through associations like IPA, or other ways of connecting to really push for change in the market?

David 07:06
It is essential. I believe that the probiotic sector come together around an international Probiotics Association, which is doing a terrific job endorsing or promoting responsible regulations based on science, and promoting therefore, the presence of high-quality products containing probiotics in the market across the globe.

Heather 07:28
Fantastic. Well, David, thank you so much for joining me today. It's been a pleasure to speak with you.

David 07:33
Thank you very much for inviting me and it's a pleasure to speak to you, and I hope to have more opportunities in the future.

Heather 07:39
Thank you.

Vitafoods Insights 07:41
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