Postbiotics are quickly gaining traction in the food and beverage industry, with a slew of consumer products adding them to ingredient lists with promises of increased gut health.
The ingredients are poised to boom in the coming years as consumers value better-for-you attributes and functionality in their food products. The global market for foods containing postbiotics is projected to be worth $24 million by 2029, at a compound annual growth rate of 10.1%, according to a forecast from Meticulous Market Research.
Foods that help increase postbiotics naturally in the body from fermentation include: yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, soft cheeses, kefir, pickles and kimchi.
CPGs are showcasing the potential they see in postbiotic ingredients through their investments in the space. Earlier this year, ingredients giant ADM spent $30 million on a manufacturing facility in Valencia, Spain, focused on products targeting the gut microbiome, including postbiotics.
Their rise follows consumer interest in gut health products since the start of the pandemic, with greater popularity of products that promise to benefit consumers’ immunity and overall metabolism. Gut health products was named as a leading trend for consumers ahead of 2023 by better-for-you foods retailer Natural Grocers.
Proponents of the ingredients claim postbiotics can help boost the immune system when consumed, and can specifically reduce the symptoms of certain allergies and irritable bowel syndrome.
In an interview with Food Dive, Kantha Shelke, a food ingredients researcher at IFT, described postbiotics as microbial substances derived from organisms that are no longer alive. Food scientists, she said, are working to discover benefits from the substances. The compounds they release can promote health and wellbeing when administered in adequate amounts, she said.
Consumers familiar with other “biotics” might be unsure about how postbiotics are different from prebiotics and probiotics. In short, postbiotics are the result of prebiotic plant fibers consuming probiotics, containing the beneficial effects of both.
CPGs tapping into postbiotics
Amid the ongoing gut health frenzy, several brands have made greater investments and rolled out products utilizing postbiotics.
In 2021, agricultural giant Cargill received FDA approval for its EpiCor postbiotic ingredient — a yeast fermentate — for application in food products. Last year, cheese giant Bel collaborated with protein company Superbrewed on a plant-based cheese, developed through precision fermentation, that it said contains postbiotics.
“If Bel has identified and purified its postbiotic preparation in terms of a consistent composition of health-conferring compounds, then it could support its gut health claim,” Shelke said.
This week, a new entrant in the frozen pizza space touted postbiotics as a key ingredient in giving its products a health halo over other products. Yough, which makes pizza dough using Greek yogurt, said it aims to expand into other baked goods like cinnamon rolls and pretzels, which will also contain postbiotics.
Shelke said she predicts a large crop of CPG products containing “postbiotic” labeling in the coming years. There is some consumer confusion without clear regulation or labeling definitions for the products, however. But just putting the postbiotic label on a food, she added, does not necessarily confer the full benefits the substances can provide.
“What matters is how much has been added, what else is added to that food, and how the processing and storage of that food affects the postbiotic and its bioavailability when the food is consumed,” Shelke said. “We have a lot to discover and substantiate before making health claims with postbiotic ingredients.”