Australians skeptical about probiotic claims, says Datamonitor

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Digestive health, Dietary fiber, Irritable bowel syndrome, Datamonitor

Most Australian consumers are still not ready to believe the claims made by probiotic products, despite a steady and growing interest in their value for improving digestive health, according to Datamonitor.

The market researcher told NutraIngredients.com this morning that sales of probiotic products in Australia last year reached US$108.1m, a 37 per cent increase since 2003 when the market was worth US$78.7m.

“Consumers are now more knowledgeable regarding digestive health and are seeking out more ways of safeguarding their health with functional foods,”​ said Mark Whalley, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor.

Where’s the trust?

However, despite a higher awareness of probiotics and their role in maintaining digestive health, only a quarter (27 per cent) of Australian consumers “firmly”​ believe the health claims made on these products.

According to statistics in a Datamonitor report published in February this year – Opportunities in Digestive and Immunity Health: Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors​ – more than half of Australians are undecided about the trustworthiness of foods and beverages that make digestive health claims.

Australian females (31 per cent) were more likely than Australian males (24 per cent) to find digestive health product claims to be trustworthy.

“Trust (…) continues to be an issue for Australians,”​ said Datamonitor, adding that Australians are more skeptical than the global average, with 37 per cent of overall consumers saying they consider digestive health products to be trustworthy.

This is partly because the Australian market for probiotics is still relatively young, although marketing campaigns for probiotic yoghurt products such as Yoplait and Yakult have already gone a long way in raising awareness in Australia, said the research group.

“In other Asia Pacific countries such as Japan, the idea of drinking a daily Yakult is a far more normal and accepted part of life. As time goes on, the same culture is expected to develop across Europe and North America.”

Digestive health

According to Datamonitor, Australians are “more aware of the importance of digestive health issues than ever before”.

In 2008, nearly three and a half million people complained of heartburn, and this figure expected to rise past four million by 2013, amounting to nearly a 20 per cent of the population, said the group.

Similarly, around 2.7 million people suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in 2008, with a predicted increase to 3.2 million by 2013.

According to Datamonitor’s 2008 consumer survey, 84 per cent of Australians believe that diet and nutrition is important to increasing a feeling of wellbeing or wellness. Some 31 percent of Australians pay a high amount of attention to digestive health (which is 4 per cent more than consumers in the UK). However, this is below the global average of 36 per cent, said the researcher.

Market

Overall, the market value for all digestive health products in Australia in 2008 was US$507.2m, up from US$373.9m in 2003. This is mainly driven by increasing interest in probiotics and prebiotics, but the largest part of this market remains high fibre products, which many consumers strongly understand to be good for digestive health, said Datamonitor.

The real success of these products has been the way in which consumers have adopted them for a ‘daily dosing’ routine.”

It added, however, that industry faces a tough challenge justifying higher prices at a time of tight spending.

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