Australians embracing food and beverage products that boost digestive health

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 23rd June 2009

The success of marketing probiotic yoghurt products such as Yoplait and Yakult means that Australian consumers are more aware of the importance of digestive health issues than ever before, offering a golden opportunity to food and beverage firms.

Terms such as ‘digestivus culturus’ and ‘l. casei shirota’, which at one time would mystify consumers, are now becoming more widely understood. However, this is only the beginning of the digestive health movement, according to Mark Whalley, Consumer Markets Analyst at Datamonitor.

“Consumers are now more knowledgeable regarding digestive health and are seeking out more ways of safeguarding their health with functional foods,” he advised.

In 2008, nearly three and a half million people complained of heartburn, and this figure expected to rise past four million by 2013 (amounting to nearly a 20% of the population). Similarly, around 2.7 million people suffered from IBS in 2008, with a predicted increase to 3.2 million by 2013. No wonder then that so many people are looking for solutions to their problems, and food and beverage firms are increasingly keen to provide them.

Mr Whalley believes the real success of these products has been the way in which consumers have adopted them for a ‘daily dosing’ routine. The daily consumption of a probiotic yoghurt allows people to feel that they are combining a healthy boost with a delicious treat.

“However, the industry faces a tough challenge justifying prices at a time when consumers are looking to save pennies,” he added.

Trust also continues to be an issue for Australians, with only a quarter (27.5%) telling Datamonitor that they firmly believed the claims that these products make. In other Asia Pacific countries such as Japan, the idea of drinking a daily Yakult is a far more normal and accepted part of life. As time goes on, the same culture is expected to develop across Europe and North America.

Manufacturers are responding to interest by incorporating probiotics into more foods that people eat everyday, including desserts such as ice creams and even tomato ketchup. What’s more, prebiotics, the lesser-known cousin of probiotics, are finding their way into a number of products, including breakfast cereals. It is this ease of consumption that is making digestive health regimes so appealing.

The future of foods and beverages which claim to improve digestive health is looking rosy.

“People find these products appealing and, more importantly, they like how they taste. Digestive health has strong links with immunity health, which means that consumers feel better after eating their probiotic yoghurts. This is what keeps them coming back for more. It’s therefore likely that, looking forwards, digestive health products will go from strength to strength,” Mr Whalley concluded.