The market for probiotic supplements and food continues to grow at a fast clip worldwide, expected to reach $45bn by 2017 (up from $30bn in 2012), according to Euromonitor. Global ingredient supplier Lallemand Health Solutions is no stranger to this market, with close to 40 documented probiotic strains in its portfolio and 80 years under its belt.
“Gut health is both historically and in terms of scientific documentation the primary target for probiotics, and remains our major field of application,” Bérengère Feuz, marketing group manager for Lallemand Health Solutions, told NutraIngredients-USA. “But as we discover the variety of mechanisms of action of probiotics, their array of health benefits has also widened. First immunity, then the brain-gut axis, with great potential in stress and anxiety.”
In less mature markets, gut health, including antibiotic-associated diarrhea, acute diarrhea for instance due to C. difficile, IBS, etc., remains the core benefit expected from a probiotic product. Unsurprisingly, in the more developed markets of North America and Europe, mindful consumers are starting to look beyond the “balance microflora” feature to more cutting-edge benefits. “For example, immunity modulation is gaining momentum,” she said.
Immunity modulation, stress control gain traction in developed markets
Indeed, on the heels of last year’s health claims approvals in Canada for ProbioKid (boosts body's natural defenses in children), Probio’Stick (reduces stress-related GI complications), Protectflor (reduces risk of traveler’s diarrhea), Lacidofil (restores and maintains intestinal flora), and Lalflor (reduces risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea), Feuz said the most enthusiastic response thus far has been surrounding stress control.
“We are the first company demonstrate—in human clinical trials—a significant reduction of psychological stress without the side effects of drugs, with a good safety profile and no habituation,” she said. “However, there is still plenty of room for new formulations bringing strong health benefits to consumers in terms of gut health and immunity, and those are still the areas where we have most requests from our partners.”
That’s one of the reasons Lallemand has launched a systematic characterization program of its entire portfolio of probiotic strains, which involves studying their various modes of action, enabling it to customize formulations to address new areas such as oral care and women’s health.
“It is critical to be able to bring differentiated benefits with specific targets—for instance, a specific age group, or women’s health, or specific conditions such as IBS,” Feuz noted.
As the probiotic market continues to mature alongside global economies, the introduction of new technologies are facilitating a much better understanding of probiotics’ different modes of action and opening doors to new applications, Feuz said. “Ambitious programs such as meta-genome are also paving the way for new fields of application such as metabolic syndromes or obesity,” she added. “Let’s just say we have a wealth of possibilities ahead.”