Probiotics are one of the main drivers of the European functional foods market, which Leatherhead estimates was worth some US$16.1bn in 2005; in the US, by contrast, interest is a stage behind - although it is starting to be piqued. The company says that whilst the retail market for probiotic-containing products - and for prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut - is well documented, there is a dearth of information about how the food and drink industry is actually using these ingredients. It believes the time is right to take a closer look at such usage - especially since probiotics are starting to break out of their traditional home in dairy products and into other applications like drinks, butters and ice-creams. Moreover, although the probiotic market is presently dominated by oligosaccharide, "there are a variety of ingredients that show probiotic potential." "The choice of prebiotics is therefore likely to grown," it predicts. The broad aims are two-fold: to determine current and future rends in demand for pre- and probiotics in key Western European markets (namely the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy); and identification of the types of pre- and probiotics currently available and their key application areas. Leatherhead is inviting companies to subscribe to collaborative market research. The research will consist of two elements: desk research and primary industrial market research. The second element will involve up to 50 interviews with key pre- and probiotic suppliers. Moreover, subscribers will have the opportunity to have their own confidential question included. For more information on the collaboration, please contact Ian Scholan at Leatherhead Food International.