Prebiotics: Growth potential for functional food brands
Per Rehné, chief executive of gut microbiome champion Clasado Biosciences, on white space opportunities for functional food brands
The seismic shifts in health and wellbeing over 2020 have really accelerated a lot of the trends we have seen in health and nutrition. In the sector, we often talk about the science of gut health as if it’s siloed from the consumer and develops independently of the population. However, we are seeing that this is not the case as individuals become much more engaged with their health. We saw a similar pattern previously with probiotics and it seems likely that the prebiotics category is following the same upward trajectory.
With each new piece of research, we are getting a clearer understanding of how central our gut bacteria are to physical wellbeing and excitingly, we’re only scratching the surface.
What’s proving different for brands in the supplement and functional food space now is that through the challenges of 2020, the public is taking health into their own hands and is proactively educating themselves on gut health like never before.
Consumers are actively seeking products such as supplements and functional foods that can support good gut bacteria and this of course brings abundant commercial opportunity for brands and manufacturers. We saw this demand spike first-hand with our own range of finished consumer supplements.
We expect that functional food brands will really embrace prebiotics in 2021. The category combines the convenience that the consumer seeks with the nutritional science that is engaging shoppers around the world.
Already we have seen big name brands launch prebiotic products and establish new markets in the process. From the interest we have seen, we have identified the dairy, beverage, bakery and cereal sectors as categories to watch.
Prebiotics and immune health
We cannot ignore the changing face of immune health. For the latter half of last year, the wider topic of immunity took on a new lease of life and we are expecting this aspect of gut health to continue taking centre stage in 2021.
From our own perspective as the developer of Bimuno – the most studied prebiotic of its kind – we have seen significant interest from brands looking for ingredients that can support immune function. Here, we turn to the good gut bacteria that assist the body’s natural defences.
When we talk about immune health, often the first thing we picture is white blood cells attacking foreign bodies. However, around 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut.
Our studies into Bimuno showed the influence of prebiotics on key immune markers in diverse demographics. For example, we saw a positive response on markers of immune resilience in the elderly, improvement of inflammatory markers in the overweight and decreases of asthma-associated pro-inflammatory markers in both athletes and a control group.
It’s clear that consumers are actively interested in the ways that gut health can support immune health. We are expecting to see brands adopting prebiotics into new and existing lines for this purpose alone, even discounting their other diverse benefits.
Finally, we are finding more supplement developers exploring the potential of synbiotics. Combining probiotics with a prebiotic substrate, synbiotics are gaining real traction in health and nutrition markets.
With such a new category, it’s an ideal opportunity for brands to innovate and pioneer synbiotics and take advantage of the momentum behind prebiotics.