Google search trends: Consumers on the search for prebiotics

By Nikki Hancocks

- Last updated on GMT

Lumin dashboard: Popularity of gut health related search words
Lumin dashboard: Popularity of gut health related search words

Related tags Lumina Intelligence microbiome Prebiotics

Prebiotics are trending on multiple fronts right now, according to new research from Lumina Intelligence, as consumers look to improve their own health as well as their pets'.

By tracking Google search trends, which reveal the frequency of online searches for 1,633 keywords, Lumina​ can analyse which searches are most prevalent and which are building momentum.

Explaining the key trends for the period Feb 2020 – Feb 2021, Zoe Coleman, digital marketing manager at Lumina, says: “Comparing the term ‘prebiotics’ with a number of other microbiome related search terms, we can see that, with 11.5K average monthly searches between February 2020 and 2021, ‘searchers for prebiotics are more frequent than any other, including ‘cardiovascular health’, ‘digestion’ and even ‘immunity’."

 The way that consumers are searching for prebiotics depends on how well versed they are with their health benefits.

“There’s generally two sectors of consumers,”​ Coleman explains, “one has an idea of exactly the symptom or health condition they want the prebiotic to address and so they research online accordingly. You can see this in the below chart – women’s health, gut health, constipation and IBS are the human-related groups driving growth in searches for prebiotics.

lumina pic 2
Lumina dashboard: Words most commonly searched alongside 'prebiotics'

“The second set of consumers are generally new to prebiotics and have very little pre-existing knowledge of them. The most common questions asked about prebiotics reveals that consumers generally want to know what prebiotics are used for and what the health benefits are.”

But whilst there are still many consumers unsure about what prebiotics even do for their health, the better informed consumers are searching for specific classes of prebiotics FOS and GOS, Coleman adds.

“Ingredient-specific prebiotic searches such as FOS and GOS have enjoyed strong growth, particularly since the start of 2021, and helping drive growth in prebiotic searches. Monthly search volume for this set of keywords has grown 34% YOY (April 2020 vs April 2021).”

And Lumina’s consumer review analysis reveals that, within probiotic supplements, prebiotics as an additional ingredient resonate well with the end-use. In fact, they are among the top performing ingredients when it comes to the number of reviews generated by products they are used in. 

Leveraging plants’ natural edge

“Plant-based eating is a global macrotrend. Consumers’ motivations for cutting out or down on animal foods, like meat and dairy, range from environmental sustainability concerns to ethical considerations, to personal health objectives. 

“This shift opens up opportunities for prebiotic fibres, since they are either already present or can easily be integrated into the plant-based products that are substituting animal-based foods. It also gives products, which were always plant-based, new leverage in terms of positioning.”

Breakfast cereals are a good example of this opportunity and many brands are already tapping into it. 

In a recent webinar, D’Anne Hayman, vice president of Global Innovation and Nutrition at Kellogg, declared gut health to be the future of nutrition​. Kellogg’s strategy for the immediate future was to “promote its diverse range of plant-based fibres to nourish the gut.” This would, according to Hayman, also include new brands and novel plant fibres. 

The dairy sector

Lactose-derived GOS will not only remain relevant, but find increasing resonance with an adult audience in areas like immunity, mood regulation and cognitive functioning. Dairy products lend themselves particularly well as a vehicle for GOS, but they are by no means limited to this category. We expect to see functional foods and beverages containing GOS across the board. 

Pet food

Prebiotics play an important role in animal feed and the rise of poultry farming in Asia Pacific, particularly in India, China and Indonesia, is pushing the uptake of prebiotic fibres like mannan oligosaccharides (MOS), derived from brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae​).

The addition of MOS is known to improve feed conversion efficiency and boost egg production in hens as well as growth in broiler chickens and turkeys.

Prebiotics are also becoming increasingly common in pet food, but there is a different reason behind this market trend, with pet owners believing that what is healthy for them, must also be good for their four-legged companions.

“Anthropomorphism – the attribution of human characteristics, preferences, etc. to objects and animals – is a long-standing macro trend impacting the pet food sector," ​explains Coleman.

“One manifestation of this is the addition of trendy 'superfood' ingredients to pet food products for the purpose of product differentiation and adding value.

“Prebiotics most certainly fall into this category, and there is a whole slew of recent launches attesting to this phenomenon. Minimo Yum Disney Pixar Soul Limited Edition Dry Cat Food, introduced by Malta Cleyton in Mexico in February 2021, contains both MOS and beta glucans for heart and digestive health.”

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