Prebiotics winning American consumer confidence

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 28th July 2008

Prebiotics, known for their ability to improve intestinal regularity, appear to be slowly stepping out of the shadow of probiotics as more options become available to manufacturers.

Buoyed by positive scientific data, prebiotics such as fructans are making their mark in the prebiotics market. Following in their footsteps are a new set of prebiotics, such as mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS), galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and xylo-oligosaccharides (XOS), which rely on the same marketing methods to garner market shares.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “U.S. Prebiotics Markets”, discovered that the market earned revenues of $68.9 million in 2007 and estimated it to reach $198.3 million in 2014, as consumers increase their demand for functional foods.

Like a majority of nutritional ingredients, the success of these newly introduced prebiotics relies greatly on scientific validation. Manufacturers have begun to realise they must focus on the robust science behind these ingredients to gain consumer confidence. The report suggested Fructans were a clear example of how convincing scientific evidence leads to success and outlined that such efforts not only boost the emerging market, but also help differentiate products and drive branding efforts.

“Therefore potential entrants must be prepared to invest substantially in scientific trials and clinical research with a view to establish credibility, as well as develop a brand in the later stages of market development,” advised Ashwin Sukumaran, Frost & Sullivan Senior Research Analyst.

While the overall prebiotics market expects strong growth, manufacturers will be pressed to devise inventive strategies for each segment, since they are all in different stages of development. They will need to invest significantly in product awareness campaigns to communicate the positive results of clinical trials to end users and carefully plan their positioning strategies, according to the report.

“In some prebiotic segments, particularly MOS, the specifications of the product supplied will determine its positioning and the application at which it is aimed,” notes Sukumaran. “Growth in the prebiotics market is also triggered by increasing consumer awareness and interest in ‘symbiotic’ products, which combine both probiotics and prebiotics to deliver optimum digestive health benefits.”

This interest in preventive healthcare and digestive health will provide the stimulus for growth of the prebiotics market. Manufacturers are expected to benefit by targeting the sizeable elderly population, as they are likely to buy prebiotic products due to increased health concerns.

Prebiotics’ multifunctional properties will also expand the scope of marketing, according to the research. For instance, while inulin is used as a texturizer and humectant in food and beverages, it is also employed as a replacement for sugar and fat.

The difference between probiotics and prebiotics? 

The difference between pro- and pre- biotics is that probiotics replace bacteria whereas prebiotics feed the good bacteria already in the digestive tract. Prebiotics can also be used in a wider range of foods due to the fact they don’t have storage problems associated with ‘live’ products.