Probiotics putsch into eastern Europe

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Eastern europe Europe

Swedish probiotics specialist Probi has signed two deals to
distribute probiotic supplements in eastern Europe, a region it
believes possesses "huge potential".

An alliance with Serbian food supplements and pharmaceuticals distributor and marketer, Proton System, will see food supplements incorporating Probi's Lp299v strain launched in Autumn in eight eastern European countries.

The supplements will be debuted under an as yet undisclosed Proton System brand and be made by Probi's supplements manufacturing partner, Institut Rosell, which it has worked with for many years.

Probi's other agreement is with the Polish arm of German natural products player, Sanum Kehlbeck, a company that has more than 40 products on the Polish market.

Go East

"We are excited to bring this probiotic strain with strong documentation in gastrointestinal health to the Polish market.

Probi's bacteria Lp299v fits very well with our current product portfolio and our marketing strategy with focus on doctors and pharmacists is definitely the right strategy for Probi's product," said Igor Loniewski, Sanum Polska president.

Probi chief executive officer Michael Oredsson said eastern Europe had become a strategic focus but noted education about probiotics needed to occur.

"We are working with our distributors on to boost awareness and understanding of probiotics but very excited about the region's potential," Oredsson told

"There are a lot of people and big potential."

The Proton System product would be distributed as a non-prescription, food supplement in pharmacies when it is simultaneously launched (barring regulatory red tape) in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Slovenia and Hungary.

The move builds on arrangements Probi has in place with partners in Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Proton System chief executive officer, Predag Moscovljevic informed

the supplements would be marketed on their ability to combat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

€6.3m per-year-earning Proton System has other probiotic supplements in its suite but these were marketed on their immunity and gut health benefits.

Education Moscovljevic said the education job was not as large as some thought, as eastern Europeans had been exposed to probiotics since the 1970s and were more familiar with them and their potential benefits than, say, Americans, where the probiotic market was in its infancy and public awareness a very 21 st century phenomenon.

"Health professionals have been recommending probiotics to help treat various disorders such as IBS and gut problems for decades and we expect to gain some assist from the medical profession in this area," he said.

"We are going to market this product with full force throughout the region."

The companies wouldn't reveal retail pricing.

"Proton System has a very good network in the region and this will allow them to handle the important issues of registration, distribution and marketing in a fast and efficient way," said Oredsson.

Probi's move forms part of a strategy to boost its presence in supplements aisles as 80 per cent of its business comes from functional foods and beverages.

Since 1994, Probi's Lp299v version has been incorporated into one of Europe's most successful functional beverages, ProViva, manufactured by Swedish dairy, Skanemejerier.

It is also supplying Lp299v to Colorado-based Next Foods' probiotic juice, Goodbelly, launched in 2007.

Kraft recently added the ingredient to some products including a granola bar in its LiveActive digestive health range.

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