That was the observation of the expert panel on probiotics, prebiotics and the microbiome at our recent Growth Asia Summit 2022 event in Singapore, which included the head of the regional application and technical assistance group of the IFF, AP, Dr. Anders Henriksson, Junlebao Nutrition Research Institute Director Celia Yibing Ning, Haleon NPD Brand Manager, Wellness, Deepapriya Velumani, and A*STAR Principal Investigator, Dr. Sumanto Haldar .
The roundtable was moderated by the editor-in-chief of NutraIngredients-Asia, Tingmin Koe.
According to the panel, focusing on the health benefits of products is key to consumer acceptance.
“The fact is, consumers will pay attention to their own issues first when looking to make purchases, and only to products and ingredients second,”Ning said to the ground.
“So the first thing they are going to look for is always what is the benefit of the product and what function it can serve to align with what they need, which means the focus will always be on the function. and the benefit of the products before they even want to look at the ingredients.
“It also means that when it comes to designing the product or the packaging of the product, all of that has to be taken into consideration, whether it’s prebiotics, probiotics, probiotics or anything else in this space.”
Velumani added that product formats can also play an important role here, especially when it comes to appealing to consumers from different demographics.
“Consumer versatility in product acceptance largely depends on the life stage in fact, for example younger consumers tend to want more enjoyable options such as gummies,”she says.
“But when it comes to more traditional consumers, the trend is still capsules, and these are still the most widely accepted, as many feel the value proposition is strong and safety and efficacy are also seen as more high.
“Being able to assure consumers that probiotics are delivered in the most effective and safest way tends to make marketing much easier.”
This was backed up by Dr. Henriksson, who noted that interest in the capsules has steadily increased when it comes to prebiotics, probiotics and other similar products.
“Traditional formats continue to dominate, although there has been recent interest in formats like drops, confectionery products like chocolates and beverages,”he said.
“One factor that needs to be considered here is that the format used needs to take close account of the strain of the bacteria, as well as its sensitivity to heat and other elements around it.
“This might be the best and most effective strain of bacteria, but sensitive to the elements, so will need to be put in a capsule [for high efficacy] even if there are other new product formats, because it will facilitate the control of its activity and the environment.
“If the bacterium in question is a more resistant and tolerant strain, there are of course more options available, but this is not always the case.”
Challenges in formulating microbiome products
While there is no doubt that consumer interest in prebiotics, probiotics and other microbiome-related products has increased, especially in the past couple of years when everyone wanted to boost their immunity, it significant challenges still remain in terms of R&D and product marketing. .
“Many parents are interested in getting probiotics suitable for young children, but this is an area where clinical studies can be the most challenging, as recruiting infants is time-consuming,”Ning said.
“This is especially the case when it comes to worried mothers and our inability to promise definitive positive results after the study.”
Dr. Henriksson added that there are also researchers who do not spend enough time on preclinical testing and selecting the right foundation strain for research, resulting in a lot of unproductive time and effort being spent on strains that are unlikely to achieve good clinical results.
Commercialization was seen by the panel as an even more complex issue, especially in relation to the regulatory environment in the region for the sector.
“In several markets, for example in Asia, it is unlikely that a single strain will have the same ability to make claims at all levels – perhaps for some probiotics there may be overall health claims intestinal, but it is difficult to expand from that”,said Velumani.
“The fact is we need to be able to make claims to link the benefits to consumers – otherwise we just present them as health foods but we’re not able to communicate the chains of effectiveness and give more information that would have a real impact. ”
Other Gut Health Ingredients
In addition to directly using bacteria to improve the microbiome, special attention has also been paid to other food ingredients that can help improve gut health.
“To improve microbiome diversity, regular daily food ingredients can also help, such as spices – nutrition is really a very important pillar for pre-, pro- or postbiotic efficacy,”said Dr. Haldar.
“Our studies have shown that there is a connection between nutrition, healthy probiotics and the gut microbiome, and we have seen that things like spices and blended oils, for example rice bran, sesame, seeds flax, etc. all play a role in positively modulating the microbiota.”