Future Market Insights predicts that fermented food and beverage products will see a CAGR of 5,6% in the decade to 2032. Meanwhile, Spherical Insights forecasts the market for functional foods – including pre-, pro- and postbiotics – will expand by 4.52% through to 2030. This demand represents a ‘significant growth opportunity’, according to AB-Biotics, Kaneka’s probiotic and microbiome science affiliate.
“We think the future of food will be functional. Every moment of consumption will be an opportunity for functional foods,” the group’s Executive Director Sergi Audivert told FoodNavigator.
Currently, AB-Biotics' business is squarely grounded in the supplement and nutraceutical space. However, the Spanish group believes everyday food and beverages will be an important future market. For this reason, it is investing in developing food and beverage prototypes that fuel the microbiome to deliver scientifically-supported health benefits.
Indeed, AB-Biotics' portfolio of solutions has been clinically tested for a wide range of therapeutic areas, including digestive health, immunity and cognitive health. It’s offering includes stable lyophilized live bacteria (probiotics) and inactivated bacteria (postbiotics). Without artificial preservatives, they can be added to a range of foods without significantly altering the original taste, production process or food matrix, AB-Biotics revealed.
Probiotic potential in dairy development
The dairy aisle is one area where the potential of probiotics is already coming to the fore. “Dairy is a very classic application for probiotics,” noted Audivert.
The company’s innovation efforts have yielded a number of dairy-based solutions including Yogumel, a portfolio of starter cultures that allow consumers to make yoghurts at home. Within the portfolio, two products are enriched with clinically tested probiotics. Yogumel Digestion contains a patented formula with three bacterial strains (P. acidilactici KABP™ 021 L. plantarum KABP™ 022, L. plantarum KABP™ 023), delivering a triple mechanism of action to promote digestive health. Yogumel Defenses contains a blend of vitamin C as well as L. plantarum DR7, a probiotic strain that has shown great potential to support immune health.
Elsewhere, working in partnership with organic yoghurt brand Purnatur, AB-Biotics has helped develop Pur Natur bio active yogurt, which includes three extra probiotic strains from AB-Biotics that have clinically tested benefits for digestive health.
In ice cream, the microbiome innovator has collaborated with Spanish food maker BeingFoods, a group that focuses on healthy and sustainable products, to create Proasis, a ‘functional and healthier’ ice cream alternative ‘championed for its high protein and probiotics count’. “Proasis products are enriched with protein and incorporate probiotics to protect the intestinal microbiota and help to ensure no gut disturbance due to a high protein diet.”
With an eye to child nutrition, AB-Biotics also partnered with Greek company Frezyderm to create Frezylac, a powdered cow’s milk suitable for children twelve months and older. The GMO-free and gluten-free milk powder includes vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and probiotics.
Beyond dairy: ‘Postbiotics are very interesting in food’
Audivert does not believe that the potential is limited to the dairy category, pointing to opportunities in beverages, juices and snacks. However, he notes, how microbiome-friendly ingredients will act in food products is an area that requires careful consideration.
“We need to research further because of the application in the food matrix. The biggest challenge we have in the food matrix is delivery and stability,” he told us, noting that AB-Biotics kicked off this R&D effort two years ago.
For instance, he continued: “When you enter bakery and bread you have to work with postbiotics because the live strains can’t survive the heat conditions… Encapsulation is useful when you want to deliver something that’s alive. The problem is it is expensive. When you enter the food market the first hurdle is cost.”
Nevertheless, Audivert does see some cost upside for food makers who want to incorporate biotics into their products compared to the nutra industry. “If you think about a dietary supplement, the shelf life is about two years. To ensure the supplement is effective over that timeframe, you need to overdose to ensure the strains remain active. In food, that’s not happening. You don’t need to overdose so pricewise, its much cheaper to produce a food than a supplement. If you take into account the two variables, stability and shelf life, postbiotics are very interesting for food. But this opportunity will be available only for those companies with clinical evidence of clear benefits.”
EU regulations dampening innovation efforts
The biggest markets for pro-, pre- and postbiotics are the USA, China and Korea. Audivert believes that the stringent regulatory environment in Europe is dampening innovation in the region.
“EFSA is doing its best to ban probiotics,” he told us. “My frustration is we have to go to markets like Korea, the third best developed market behind the US and China. There, regulation is clear and this goes in favour of consumers, who get real solutions.”
Indeed, Audivert stressed, the biggest loser in this situation is the European consumer: “The consumer is limited because of regulation, you cannot communicate the benefits of consumption to the consumer. This is affecting the European industry. The food industry is not interested in advancing ingredients that you can’t communicate the benefits of. This is a problem because we could set up research programmes to develop microbiome technologies for food applications… but the investment is not justified.
“One of the challenge society is facing is to live longer and live better. Consumers need tools to make this happen. Regulation needs to provide those tools.”