Concept Card: Probiotic and Protein Powder
Concept Card: Probiotics Supplement Capsules
What this means is that despite a dynamic and growing probiotics market, consumers do not yet understand and embrace the full benefits of probiotics. This is due to misconceptions and misunderstanding among consumers that can largely be addressed if brands focus on clearly communicating the science-backed research behind their probiotic products.
Demystifying misconceptions of probiotics
At the 10th Microbiome & Probiotics R&D and Business Collaboration Forum held last year, one key point was raised – brands need to play a more active role in communicating the benefits of probiotics that are specific to strain, dose, and duration of use, to their target consumers.
While simplified branding helps with sales of probiotics, it can lead to widespread misunderstanding around their benefits and uses. At the extreme end, some marketing and news outlets may even mislead consumers.
A 2020 study found that most websites that provide information about probiotics are unreliable and often tout incomplete information, choosing to leave out potential side effects².
In a spirit of demystifying, we asked Dr. Kera-Nyemb-Diop to squash the most common probiotics myths she hears - and how brands can capture opportunities in this space.
One common example is the increasing focus on Colony Forming Units (CFU). Products with a higher CFU count are promoted by some brands as being more potent and effective, but that is not necessarily the case.
Quality is more important than quantity. Products with a higher CFU are not necessarily more effective. The benefits of probiotics are linked to the specific strain that must be tested in humans and proven to provide desired outcomes.
Myth 2: All probiotics are the same
Probiotics are not a one-fits-all solution. Each strain has its own health benefits. One strain of Lactobacillus, for example, can alleviate symptoms of a health issue while another may have no effect at all.
According to Dr. Kera Nyemb-Diop, it is helpful for brands to include information about a product’s specific strain on the label, alongside scientific research that validates its benefits. They can also consider including a QR code on packaging that leads to additional clinical evidence of the product’s efficacy.
Myth 3: Any type of evidence on the probiotic’s effectiveness is enough
Given the rising popularity of probiotics and increasing speed of product innovation, it’s crucial for brands to work with suppliers who can provide consumers with relevant, accurate, and science-backed information.
The lack of trust towards a product’s claimed health benefits is among the top barriers to healthy nutrition.1
For instance, consumers are often unaware that health benefits suggested by studies conducted in laboratories or on animals do not necessarily translate to benefits in humans. These tests establish the possibility of a benefit, explore potential mechanisms, or provide evidence of safety, before moving to human research. However, there are many studies where promising results from the lab bench are not observed in human feeding studies. Ideally, probiotic benefits need to be supported by well-run and rigorous studies on humans.
What we've learnt
At Nutiani, we believe probiotics represent a strong growth area within the functional food space and we are committed to sharing our latest scientific research with our customers, so they can help educate their consumers. Our Microbial Fermentation Unit (MFU) has uncovered more than 40,000 microbial strains and developed a deep understanding of our unique probiotic strains – Nutiani HN001™ and Nutiani HN019™.
Our research has confirmed the hypotheses that consuming Nutiani HN001™ and Nutiani HN019™ can help promote digestive health, mental wellbeing and build immunity. We are now delving deeper into the gut-skin axis that connects the consumption of some probiotics to improved skin conditions such as eczema.
Dr. Kera reveals, “There is already clinical evidence that maternal and infant supplementation of Nutiani HN001™ has protective immune effects against eczema development. We are investigating whether this benefit can be extended to the adult population so we can see an improvement in symptoms associated with dry and sensitive skin.”
In addition to providing probiotic strains backed by scientific evidence and human clinical studies to support innovation pipelines, we also draw on our research and experts to educate our customers on the complexities of ingredients. This better equips brands to deliver accurate information on the health benefits of probiotics.
Brands that prioritise consumer education are uniquely placed to capture emerging opportunities in the probiotics space. Most importantly, strains used must be backed by continuing scientific evidence – including human research – with proven safety and efficacy to best help consumers embrace the benefits.
Kera is a nutrition scientist that leads the Nutrition and Health Science Program for the Advanced Nutrition Specialty Nutrition team at Fonterra. Originally educated and trained in France, she holds a Ph.D. in Nutrition Science and an MSc in Food Science. She has worked in the food industry for almost a decade. Additionally, she is involved in diverse projects in the area of eating disorder recovery and accessibility of nutrition education for marginalized communities.