The regulatory straightjacket for probiotics in the EU may have limited traditional marketing methods but it has not quelled consumer interest in the products.
In fact, according to Lumina, consumers’ continued faith in probiotics is rooted in the fact that many consumers are skeptical of ‘official’ advice and are instead putting their trust into the judgement of their peers.
Ewa Hudson, director of insights at Lumina, explains that personalisation is a growing trend lending credence to probiotics as effective therapeutic tools and with many customers turning to the net to find out what their peers recommend, manufacturers need to make sure they are engaging with consumers online and steering conversations.
“Consumers no longer believe that one size fits all, and they understand that official guidelines are aimed at a general audience, rather than the individual.”
“As a result, today’s consumers like to consult a variety of sources, preferably online, before coming to a purchase decision. For this reason, online engagement is what gives a product visibility and, if the engagement is favourable, credibility.”
What species are consumers most engaged with?
According to Lumina, Lactobacillus acidophilus features in almost 13% of brand variants researched by Lumina, making it the most well recognised by consumers. Lactobacillus helveticus, however, has managed to accrue two and a half times as many reviews as L acidophilus, while L. curvatus rates higher at 4.55 vs. 4.47 achieved by L. acidophilus.
Hudson explains that this sort of fine detail is essential for businesses in this industry who need to know what their consumers want and where they need to increase communication efforts on order to build awareness.
“By leveraging online consumer engagement data, ingredients manufacturers are able to take much more targeted action to improve their products’ reception and performance."
But she says engagement is a two-way process and it is important that businesses, especially B2B, communicate with consumers, educate them, and ensure repeat purchase.
“Perusing the metrics alone can only get you so far. For example, consumers may have misconceptions about probiotics, or queries about dosages or storage, which the manufacturer would be in the best position to answer.
“By leaving it up to brand owners and retailers to respond to consumers’ questions, ingredient companies are missing out on a prime opportunity to foster knowledge, appreciation and loyalty within their target audiences.
“Heightening the profile of proprietary strains, for instance, is an objective that benefits the producer first and foremost.
“Furthermore, by engaging with the end consumer more closely, ingredients suppliers can get a sense of which needs remain unmet, and in which areas (e.g. specific types of health issues) demand for probiotics may arise in the future.”
The rapidly evolving universe of probiotics, prebiotics and the microbiome will be propelled into the new decade at the upcoming Probiota 2020 summit in Dublin on February 10-12.
From advances in microbiome research, to start-ups, key market stats, crucial clinical science and regulatory knowledge, attendance is a must-have for those in the prebiotic, probiotic and microbiome sectors.
The leaders of the pack
The firm’s research shows that, in terms of online reviews, on a global level, the three leading probiotic ingredients companies are DuPont, Lallemand Inc and Christian Hansen (Hansen Holding).
Across the ten European markets researched by Lumina Intelligence, Phacobel, Probi, Bifodan A/S, ADM Protexin Ltd and Procter & Gamble were the most reviewed. Star ratings were ‘overwhelmingly’ at the high end, above 4.3 (out of 5). This attests to the popularity of probiotics among consumers.
Lumina Intelligence reviewed 815 brand owners within the probiotics space, 956 brands and 2110 brand variants, between December 2017 and July 2019, across 21 country markets. The level of online engagement was gauged through the average star rating and the number of post-purchase reviews per product/brand/brand owner. These were then tracked back to the supplier. The number of likes/followers on Facebook and Twitter were also taken into account.