What is a prebiotic? This question holds back the market.
- According to Food Navigator, although prebiotics are not new to the market, the only consumer group that knows a lot about them are supplement veterans, and mainstream acceptance is still a ways away.
- Due to an abundance of conflicting information and regulatory hurdles associated with printing prebiotic claims on labels, research from the Global Prebiotic Association shows that even the most seasoned supplement users have a murky understanding of what a prebiotic actually is. Prebiotics are ingredients that feed good bacteria that is already in the gut.
- “The knowledgeable supplement users are looking for products labeled 'prebiotic.' But even then, they do not understand the differences" between different types, Steven Hanson, senior vice president of global sales for PreNexus Health, told Food Navigator.
The buzz about gut health continues to get louder. While the main focus continues to be on probiotics, prebiotics are gaining increased attention. According to a Global Industry Analysts’ report, demand for prebiotic-containing products could drive the market to reach $7.8 billion by 2022. Probiotics, however, will eclipse that figure. The same firm predicts the probiotics market will exceed $63 billion that year.
While probiotics have been in mainstream vernacular for years, the same cannot be said about prebiotics, which may have something to do with the various forms that are available on the market, but are not as interchangeable as probiotics.
Another problem that prevents the mainstream from understanding prebiotics is the complex studies and regulations required to certify the use of the term. Still, even with these hurdles, a Markets and Markets report noted that annual growth of the prebiotic market is expected to sit at 10.4%.
“Prebiotics are emerging as the next super ingredient for digestive health”, said Deb Anderson, director of new market development - innovation at DSM in a statement. “With 29% of Americans already aware of the linkage between prebiotics and healthy digestion and the microbiome, industry reports predict a 44% growth spike in awareness through 2025.”
Some of this awareness will be generated through educational marketing and the rest will be done through individual tests as shoppers purchase products with prebiotics. Already, there are quite a few products on the market that have introduced prebiotics into the mix and found initial success. These include a white chocolate fortified with goji-berry prebiotics and antioxidants, as well as an infant formula developed by DuPont that gives bottle-fed babies similar bacteria that breastfed babies receive from their mothers.
However, not everyone is going to purchase prebiotic-infused products without a little continuing education. CPG companies and retailers need to educate their clientele on the benefits of prebiotics by engaging them in conversation. A successful approach may be to take a page out of Lucky’s Supermarkets storewide plant-based education initiative, or to go a more conventional route by increasing marketing both in-store and online in hopes of creating enough exposure and repetition to generate curiosity among the mainstream. Another idea may be to combining prebiotics with probiotics, which research suggests would benefit from piggybacking on probiotics’ acceptance in a number of applications.