Prebiotics going strong despite price rise

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Van der schraelen Nutrition

Prebiotic fibre specialist Beneo-Orafti says demand for its chicory
root-derived ingredients has been unaffected by price hikes it
implemented at the end of last year.

The Belgian supplier jacked up the price of its liquid and powder form inulin and oligofructose ingredients by 4-8 per cent in response to rising energy costs as well as the cost of harvesting, transporting and processing chicory root to deliver its suite of inulin and oligofructose ingredients. Marketing and communication manager Tim Van der Schraelen told the increases had not affected demand for the ingredients from Beneo-Orafti's international client base. "I think our clients respect the fact we have absorbed a lot of price increases over the past few years and not passed them on,"​ he said. "They also understand the situation because elements like the rise in energy costs have affected everyone. But interest in prebiotics has never been stronger and that has assisted the situation too." ​The price hikes are Beneo-Orafti's first for three years. Digestive health benefits ​Digestive health is one of the booming health segments of the functional foods industry and is the health benefit that has powered the rise of probiotics in Europe and the US. Prebiotics have also benefited from the trend and Beneo-Orafti's clinically backed ingredients appear in hundreds of end-products in most food categories around the globe. "Manufacturers remain committed to developing well balanced food products that offer consumers additional health benefits like those related to gut health,"​ Van der Schraelen said. "Consumers truly understand the importance of a healthy digestive system and will spend accordingly to reap the benefits."​ Prebiotics act as flora in the stomach to grow healthy bacteria that promote digestive health, boost all-round immunity to disease and assist calcium absorption by the body. European market ​Market analyst AC Nielsen puts the European digestive health market at about €2.2bn - while probiotic products dominate, prebiotic-infused products are performing well although no segment figures were available at the time of publishing. Beneo-Orafti says AC Nielsen supermarket scans reveal 68 per cent of 'approved' European functional foods are in the digestive health area. This figure should be seen in the light of 'approved health claim' foods, whereas the wider market includes functional foods such as superfruits that cannot as yet make health claims. In Japan, 64 per cent of Foods for Specific Health Uses (FOSHU) are in the digestive health area. Some pundits believe prebiotics are suffering at the hands of probiotics as consumers are confused about what prebiotics do compared to the more simple probiotic message - 'healthy bacteria that benefit your system'. But Van der Schraelen said it was the "wrong discussion"."This is confusing terms that are scrutinised in the industry and transferring it to consumers,"​ he said. "Consumers are concerned with the end-benefit and whether that comes from prebiotics or probiotics is not an issue for them. Probiotics are ahead of prebiotics in terms of products being used but prebiotics have more application potential and that works in our favour." ​Beneo-Orafti operates two plants in Belgium and Chile. While the Belgian plant is operating at full capacity the Chilean plant, a relatively new addition to Orafti's operations, is not yet. "Having two plants at different locations also gives us the possibility to offer security in supply to our customers,"​ Van der Schraelen said. The company has submitted health claim petitions to the European Commission for consideration under the Nutrition and Health Claims Directive. These include:

  • 'promotes a balanced microflora'

  • 'promotes digestive health'

  • 'increases calcium absorption leading to increased bone strength'

  • 'stimulates your body's natural defenses'.

"We will continue to submit petitions as new scientific evidence becomes available to support our partners,"​ said regulatory affairs manager, Wim Caers.

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