As global probiotics market booms, IPA warns that Europe is losing out

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags European union

The global market for probiotics is growing rapidly, however EU rules that among other things ban the word ‘probiotic’ being used on label are stifling both growth and innovation in the European sector, warns the International Probiotic Association.

While an increasing demand for functional foods and dietary supplements, and a growing interest in healthy living in general, the global probiotics market is blossoming as consumer awareness of the links between microbiome and health continue to be validated.

But according to a statement by IPA Europe, while the global probiotics market is ‘clearly gaining momentum’, probiotics are losing out in Europe.

The European association suggests that since its introduction, the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR – EC 1924/2006) has caused a huge degree of uncertainty and issues in the European nutraceutical and functional food market.

This is especially true for the probiotic category, where confusion over whether use of term ‘probiotics’ in the EU market is allowed, and the requirement for stringent scientific requirements be met in order for health claims to be eligible for approval, it added.

Indeed, Euromonitor data suggests that between the onset of NHCR in 2009 and 2017, probiotic yoghurts and fermented milk have lost more than €1 billion in projected sales.

During the same period, double digit growth in probiotic sales has been recorded elsewhere in the world, with +138.5% growth in North America, +49.1% in Latin America and +74.9% in Asia Pacific, the IPA Europe noted.

The European problem

IPA Europe suggests that the way in which the European Commission has enforced NHRC means that the possibility to inform consumers on the presence of probiotics in food and food supplements products is restricted. As a result both market growth and research and innovation in the probiotic sector have been stifled.

“After 10 years of implementation, it should be recognized that the overly stringent scientific requirements for probiotics and the ‘de facto’ prohibition to use the term ‘probiotic’ resulting from the NHCR interpretation by the European Commission is depriving the EU of innovation and investment in research in a promising sector that is growing everywhere outside Europe”​ said IPA Europe president Peter Nählstedt.

“Maintaining this situation goes against the declared objectives of the EU to sustain and promote economic growth and quality jobs.”

IPA Europe suggested that the term ‘probiotic’ itself be accepted as a ‘nutrition claim’ under NHCR.

It added that the EU was the top global market for probiotic yoghurt and supplement sales until 2009. However, the EU 28 now ranks third in sales, behind China and the US.

While other markets are projected to continue to grow, the IPA Europe estimates a loss of retail value sales of the probiotic products of about €176,4 million in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and the UK (based on Euromonitor data). 

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