Lumina Intelligence insights: What works in the world of biotics?

By Olivia Haslam

- Last updated on GMT

Data insights © GettyImages / ipopba
Data insights © GettyImages / ipopba

Related tags Probiotics postbiotics Prebiotics Data synbiotics consumer behavior

The biotics industry is undergoing a transformation, largely directed by customer reviews, proprietary and generic ingredients, synbiotics, and personalisation, according to ecommerce insights service Lumina Intelligence.

Speaking at the NutraIngredients Probiota event in Milan earlier this month, Ewa Hudson, director of insights at Lumina Intelligence, explained that the success of a pro, pre or postbiotic product hinges on its ability to resonate with consumers. 

“But the economic space is very volatile, and there’s no right or wrong answer for brands,” she added.

The Influence of Reviews

Hudson highlighted that consumer reviews play a crucial role in shaping the perception of biotic products.

For example, when looking at branded postbiotics, Corebiome (the tributyrin ingredient from Compound Solutions, Inc.) is responsible for only 9.7% of the number of products on the market but holds 24.4% of consumer reviews, according to the firm’s data, collected in December 2023. On the other hand, LAC-Shield (the patented lactic acid bacteria by Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd.) is responsible for 15.5% of products but only 6% of reviews.

Reviews are one of the most viable options for understanding consumer preferences, yet they can also be fickle, Hudson explained.

While every review should theoretically remain permanent and accumulate, consolidating a range or removing a specific product can lead to loss of reviews, impacting the overall count.

Proprietary vs. generic

The decision to use proprietary or generic ingredients is a strategic one for biotic brands, Hudson noted, explaining that products using proprietary ingredients are more likely to be efficacious and that those with pre-existing popularity resonate better with consumers.

These proprietary ingredients, backed by extensive research and clinical studies, offer the opportunity to make specific claims on clinical outcomes, however, this comes at a price.

For example, Novonesis (formally Chr. Hanson) owns Lactobacillus rhamnosus​ LGG, the highly documented probiotic strain, responsible for a significant portion of the branded market.

"Novonesis spends a lot of money on the clinical studies around this ingredient, and when a brand includes it in its formulas, they get to make claims on the clinical outcomes but of course, the cost is higher," Hudson explained.

To avoid the cost, many brands will use the generic version of the same ingredient, Lactobacillus rhamnosus ​GG, which affects the ability to make claims.

However, data presented by Hudson showed that consumers tend to be less satisfied with products that use generic ingredients, leading to lower ratings and reviews.

"It's the brand's choice dependent on what’s behind their strategy, whether it will add to the brand equity,” Hudson said. “If you are a big probiotic brand, the question will be one of scale as well, as maybe the manufacturer can’t produce this proprietary ingredient at the scale that is sufficient for the brand."

Brands may also be assuming risk by declaring a proprietary ingredient on pack as branding and communication issues could arise should something go wrong with the ingredient supplier. 

“It’s a nuanced decision brands have to make, and it’s very subjective case to case,” Hudson noted. 

The rise of synbiotics​ 

Over the past decade, the biotics market has seen a shift from predominantly probiotics to the inclusion of pre and postbiotics, Hudson said.

Synbiotics are responsible for 38% of biotic SKUs in Europe yet represent 43% of consumer engagement through reviews, she shared, noting that it is a "very telling jump".

These prebiotics and probiotic combinations are garnering attention for their ability to improve the probiotic survival rate and viability in the gastrointestinal tract. Moreover, the introduction of postbiotics and their ability to contribute beneficial metabolites from dead probiotics is "revolutionizing the biotic space", Hudson said.

However, she noted that this is not the reason for increased consumer engagement: "This isn’t about consumer understanding, it is much simpler than that. Ultimately, consumers are just engaging more positively with the product."

"There’s still a lot that we don't know, but what we do know is that there are an increasing number of products containing pre and postbiotics, and they are more engaging to consumers at this point."

Missing a trick

Traditionally, a one-size-fits-all approach prevailed, but the industry is now recognizing the importance of tailored products for specific age groups and needs, Hudson said, referencing products such as the prebiotic fiber blend Supergut for weight management, the daily symbiotic powder supplement The Good Bug for PCOS hormone balance and Velbiom’s Lactogut,  a pre and postbiotic blend for fertility support during IVF treatment. 

But while consumer engagement is up as the industry diversifies, Hudson shared that she believes a trick is still being missed. 

"The exploration of factors like menopause, teenage nutrition and conditions such as PCOS and infertility emphasizes the need for a more nuanced approach to products, addressing potential gaps in basic nutrition during early teenage years," she said.

"The more we understand the full complexity of the human body, then we can have products that address specific issues in earlier life stages."

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