More consumers are able to understand and differentiate between the varying health benefits attached to probiotic strains such as lactobacillus casei immunitas andlactobacillus casei shirota, as probiotics move into the mainstream public consciousness, but trust of those claims remains an issue for many.
Datamonitor’s survey of Brits found only 27 per cent believed the claims made about probiotics products, a reality the researcher put down to the relative infancy of the sector.
Yet, by contrast, about two thirds of Russian consumers trusted such claims, even though the products were relatively new there too. However in Russia, there is a tradition of drinking fermented milk such as kefir and that may have had something to do with the high trust figure.
“In 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,” Datamonitor said.
Prebiotics are also benefitting from formulation ease in products like breakfast cereals.
Probiotics have been shown to be effective in treating conditions like heartburn and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). About 12 million Brits, or a quarter of the British population, complained of heartburn in 2008. About 10 million suffered from IBS.
They are also widely marketed for their ability to benefit the immune system.
Marketing campaigns, backed by increasing support from medical professionals and government groups, is also contributing to a growing awareness of how probiotics and other foods and ingredients can benefit digestive health.
“Yakult and Activia have become big brand names in the UK now,” Datamonitor analyst, Mark Whalley, told NutraIngredients.com. “With the small bottle, one-shot yoghurt drinks, they have very much been incorporated into people’s daily routines.”
“The difference with probiotic products and a lot of other functional foods is that they have a real benefit that is felt very quickly. They are good-tasting and they are healthful and that is why the major players are getting repeat purchases.”
However Whalley warned the recession was having an effect on the sector and downward pressure was being placed on up-to-now healthy premiums, something not unique to the probiotics sector or the UK.