The data showed globally this had risen from 2.7% to 3.2% over the same period. But due to strict European regulation much of this growth had come from the US, which saw an increase from 3.3% to over 3.6%.
Instead companies were turning to more general wellness branding with wholegrain and fibre in cereals and bakery products.
Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights said: “They are relying more on existing consumer awareness of ingredients such as probiotics and fibre, the health benefits that they offer and the kinds of food and drinks products that they can be found in.”
In the EU, there are just three authorised health claims specifically for ‘digestion’: “Chloride contributes to normal digestion by production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach,” “Lactase enzyme improves lactose digestion in individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose,” and “Live cultures in yoghurt or fermented milk improve lactose digestion of the product in individuals who have difficulty digesting lactose”.
Meanwhile, 83 rejected claims for the search term were listed on the register of health claims. Many of these related to probiotics.
The terms ‘contains probiotics’ has been banned from product packs in Europe under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) since December 2012. It was deemed an unapproved implied health claim.
Firms may list the specific strains, but not what implications they may have for health, leaving consumers to do their own research.
However, the Europe Commission is now dealing with a group application from Italian trade groups challenging this classification as a generic claim since the term probiotic had been in use for over 20 years. This case is still pending and has no fixed deadline.
Swedish firm Probi told NutraIngredients in January that media investment in the US allowed by the region's regulatory framework meant its probiotic growth was outpacing the EU.
What’s the alternative?
Yet Innova said digestive health marketing was still possible.
In the EU two article 13 claims for wholegrain had also been rejected – “Helps with weight control. For a long-lasting sense of satiety. Releases energy slowly,” and “Promotes gut activity” – although this did not mean companies could not state the content and leave consumers to make their own inferences.
For fibre the claims landscape was more promising. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has processed 47 claims relating to fibre – with seven of those approved.
These related to arabinoxylan produced from wheat endosperm and fibre from barley, oats, rye, wheat bran and sugar beet and covered health impacts like a reduction in post-prandial glycaemic responses, increased faecal bulk, changes in bowel function and a reduction in intestinal transit time.
Globally, high-fibre or source-of-fibre claims were used on nearly 3.4% of food and drinks launches in 2014 and 4.6% in the US.
Wholegrain claims were used on 2% of global launches and 3.4% in the US. This was largely made up of cereals and bakery products.
Cereals and bakery products accounted for 21% of food and drinks launches using wholegrain claims globally.
About 5.5% of global bakery launches used wholegrain claims, and 9% combined both fibre and wholegrain claims.
Innova said the key area for high-fibre launches was in breakfast biscuits, the vast majority of which were marketed as high in fibre and/or whole grains.
“This started in the UK in 2010, creating a new breakfast biscuits sub-category featuring a raft of new brands. It also heralded a welter of activity in other countries, including Germany, the US and Australia, as well as a revitalisation of existing breakfast biscuit markets in countries such as France and Spain,” the firm said.