Europe still leads the way for digestive health

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Digestive health, Probiotic, Dietary fiber, Nutrition

Europe still leads the way for digestive health
European supermarket shelves are still far ahead of their American equivalents with the range of products for digestive health, but the US is catching up fast says a new report.

According to a new report from MarketsandMarkets, digestive health ingredients are the fastest growing segment for US food ingredients, but US consumers continue to favour dietary supplements to functional foods for their probiotics

Product launches

Indeed, products launches for food claiming digestive benefits remain numerous in Europe, but not so in the US. According to data obtained from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), 38 such products were launched in the US in 2007, 137 in 2008, 127 in 2009, and 93 so far this year.

Compare this with the numbers in Europe’s biggest markets, where 435 products were launched with a digestive claim in 2007, 551 in 2008, 471 in 2009, and only 260 this year.

The decline in European product launches reflects the tightening of the regulations regarding claims. Market leading products like Danone’s Actimel has removed such claims from products

Danone responded to the regulatory uncertainty by implementing a “zero claims” policy in select European Union markets since January. All gut health and immunity claims have been removed from the French market since January, with Spain and the UK following suit as well as other EU markets.

Despite such moves in Europe, a spokesperson for Danone told NutraIngredients recently that the new European health claims regulation would actually place Danone at a competitive advantage by creating barriers to entry to the market. Even without claims on its products, Danone’s brands have strong recognition in the markets where they are sold, he said, and the company has already spent between 10 and 20 years educating consumers in these different markets on the benefits of probiotics.

Danone’s success in Europe is mirrored across the Atlantic, says the new MarketsandMarkets report, which put the spotlight on the market success of Dannon’s DanActiv product. In the United States, the awareness [towards probiotics] has reached the next level and some aggressive marketing could take this market to the highest level,” ​says the report.

Prebiotics lead the way

According to the new MarketsandMarkets report prebiotics and probiotics are growing at double-digit growth rates compared with digestive enzymes that slower to expand. Prebiotics is the largest revenue generating ingredient, said the report.

The report lists the leaders in the segment as the Beneo-Group, Sensus, GTC Nutrition, Cargill, Amano Enzyme National Enzyme Company, Chr Hansen, DSM, Danisco, and Institut Rosell-Lallemand.

Measurable benefits

The NutraIngredients focus on gut health​ found that consumers have responded to the near-instantaneous health effect of digestive health products. Consumers with digestive health issues draw real benefits from probiotic and prebiotic products that, if consumed at the right doses, generally deliver on their functional promise.

That is the key driver. In a world where a fair level of consumer scepticism remains toward many functional foods: probiotics have a rare level of trust.

According to the American College of Gastroenterology, 95m people in the US suffer from digestive problems. Some 60m are thought to suffer from heartburn, and 50m from irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, it is estimated that around 20m people suffer from stomach ulcers.

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