- Cargill's EpiCor postbiotic has received Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status from the Food and Drug Administration for its use in food and beverages. As a dietary supplement, the dried yeast fermentate was clinically proven to modulate gut microbiota and support the immune system, according to the company. EpiCor also recently received Non-GMO Project Verification.
- Postbiotics are produced when probiotics — helpful bacteria that provide benefits inside of the gut — consume prebiotic plant fibers. Because postbiotics are not live, they are highly heat stable and can handle different pH levels, according to Cargill.
- As an emerging ingredient, postbiotics promise another way for consumers to boost their immune system and gut health. However, they may add to the confusion currently swirling around the functionality of prebiotics and probiotics.
A relatively new category of gut health supplements, postbiotics were recently discussed by a panel of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics in terms of their potential health benefits, including immune support, gut health and weight loss. ISAPP issued an official definition for postbiotics, describing them as "a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host."
Cargill has been bullish on healthy ingredients, predicting $1 billion in sales during the next two to three years. It launched Cargill Health Technologies in September 2019 to help expand its R&D capabilities in the gut and digestive health space.
Cargill acquired Embria, the original maker of EpiCor, along with its parent company Diamond V in 2017. EpiCor is created by submitting baker's yeast through a proprietary fermentation process and then drying and milling the nutrients created. Cargill had already shared snack, candy and beverage prototypes including EpiCor postbiotics with customers ahead of receiving its GRAS approval.
The GRAS status for EpiCor now gives Cargill another gut and immune-supporting ingredient to market. The company offers prebiotics such as its Oliggo-Fiber chicory root fiber.
That said, postbiotics may face the same level of consumer confusion swirling around prebitoics and probiotics, even as they continue to gain popularity due to the health benefits they may offer. Prebiotics have faced headwinds from mainstream acceptance because of conflicting information and regulatory hurdles around label claims about their health benefits.
Probiotics have already become a force within the food and beverage industry, but as a more general functional play. Last year, Chobani debuted a line of yogurt cups and drinks that contain probiotics. The line was geared towards Gen Zers and millennials who may not understand the benefits but who are interested in including more functional foods in their diets. Other examples include Kellogg’s Special K Nourish line and General Mills’ partnership with GoodBelly to make probiotic-infused cereal.
For now, consumers seem interested enough in ingredients that support gut health and their immune systems due to their general interest in functional ingredients. But with postbiotics joining the list of potential options, CPGs may need to do more educating to help consumers figure out the differences, and which ones are right for them.