According to a new report from market research publisher Packaged Facts, US sales of fermented vegetable have remained flat at $2.6bn over the past five years - despite consumers knowing more now about the health benefits of probiotics.
Probiotic yoghurts have proved to be a challenge for marketers in the US when compared with their European counterparts, as North American customers seem to have been less open to the idea of so-called "friendly bacteria".
The correct balance of probiotic bacteria in the large intestine has been implicated in several health benefits including gut health and immunity, although it is not possible to make direct health claims in many markets.
Yet surveys have shown the US is lagging behind Europe in terms of accepting this idea of friendly bacteria. Although the situation in the US is slowly changing through increased exposure and thanks to campaigns such as that of Danone's Activia yoghurt line.
While yoghurts have been the most widespread food vehicle for delivering probiotics to consumers, Packaged Facts presents fermented vegetables - like pickles - as an untapped source.
"If you look on the supermarket shelves, right next to the organic pickles, olives, and other marinated condiments, we're seeing healthy competition from ethnic fare, particularly Asian and Hispanic," said Don Montuori, publisher of Packaged Facts. "This opens up ethnic demographics as well as Baby Boomers as key targets for manufacturers who want to increase sales by focusing on innovative flavors, greater varieties of premium vegetables, and ethnic-inspired condiments."
Packaged Facts projects the fermented vegetable market's struggle will continue due to a consumer shift from processed to fresh foods.
Sales are expected to dip to $2.57bn by 2010 as the refrigerated pickles, olives, and relishes category continues to decline. Shelf stable fare is expected to remain flat despite manufacturer efforts to upscale and introduce healthier products and unique flavors.