What have been some of the key factors behind demand for gut health products?
“Consumers are increasingly aware of the concept of bacteria in the digestive system and are accepting of the concept of beneficial bacteria in products. They also recognise that gut health has a positive impact on overall health - Covid-19 is something that increased attention to the gut microbiome at industry level. Consumers also recognise the link between poor gut health and weak immunity, and across the globe, the proportion of consumers suffering from digestive health is on the rise. This can be attributed to an ageing society and poor dietary habits.”
What product segments have seen the most growth?
“Consumers are looking for products that benefit and complement their daily diet. This means they are taking a proactive approach to health. With that said, consumers are also shifting from capsules and pills to more convenient formats such as probiotics sachets, powders, and gummies.”
What are some of the challenges facing manufacturers in delivering products with optimal performance?
“Selecting a science-backed probiotics ingredient, and determining which delivery format works best, are some of the key challenges. It can be difficult to develop a product that can deliver the desired health benefit, and at the same time, come in an innovative format. Well-studied probiotics strains that possess great stability for use in various product formats are relatively limited. Temperature, water activity, acidity etc are some areas of concern in probiotics product development.”
Tell me about your research into human residential bifidobacterial (HRB).
“The first 1,000 days of life are critically important for an infant's healthy growth and immune development. Bifidobacteria is a critical determinant in this process, since it produces various beneficial metabolites to improve intestinal environment. We have observed the usage of HRB probiotics for promoting infant Bifidobacteria-dominant microbial composition, suppressing potentially pathogenic bacteria, modulating immune balance and preventing atopic dermatitis and eczema.”
What have been the key challenges to delivering the benefits of HRB in consumer products?
“It is known that infant gut microbiota is affected by various factors such as mode of delivery, feeding, and gestational age, etc. For instance, low birth weight (LBW) can mean infants have a delay in growth and greater susceptibility to infection and inflammatory illnesses such as necrotizing enteritis. Several studies have shown that the intake of HRB probiotics can promote Bifidobacteria-colonisation, facilitate growth and prevent inflammatory disease. Supported by this evidence, the number of pediatricians using HRB probiotics for LBW infants is increasing in Japan and other regions of Asia. Key challenges including demonstrating clinical evidence with appropriate age group facing particular health problems.”
How is your research helping manufacturers to overcome these challenges?
“Our latest clinical study found that intake of single-strain HRB probiotics significantly promotes Bifidobacterial colonisation in the gut. Furthermore, subgroup analysis showed quick Bifidobacteria catch-up in infants born by C-section, who were formula-fed, or whose mothers used anti-microbial medicines at delivery. These results demonstrate that the administration of HRB probiotics could encourage a healthy gut microenvironment.”
What do you see as the future for HRB, in terms of growing consumer awareness and product roll out?
“According to the science, the earlier HRB probiotics are implemented, the better impact there will be on infant gut microbial environment. Along with improving consumer and manufacturer understanding of the essential role of HRB in the infant's gut, we need to consider appropriate applications and opportunities. Through these efforts, we will be able to improve infant gut microbiome compositions and contribute to long-term healthy life.”