The Probiota Asia 2021 Digital Summit was a four-day virtual event hosted by NutraIngredients-Asia, And in its final session on “From Idea to Commercialization: Product Development, Innovations and Format Opportunities,” speakers and panelists highlighted the importance of a variety of factors, from scientific evidence to regulatory challenges when ‘it is about marketing probiotic and prebiotic products in the APAC Region.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dr Pietro Antonio Tataranni, CMO and SVP Life Sciences at PepsiCo, and other speakers included Morinaga Dairy Sales Development Director Yosuke Muto, IFF Application and Tech Support Lead APAC Dr Anders Henriksson, Director of Food Science Program at Nanyang Technological University. Professor William Chen, Associate Professor of Food Science Program at National University of Singapore, Liu shao Quan, Founder of FunDay Daniel Kitay and Founder of ffit 8 Zhang Guangming.
Deputy Chairman of Chinese dairy giant Yili, Dr Yun Zhanyou, PhD student of Professor Liu, Alcine Chan, and Vice President of Marketing of Deerland Probiotics, Susanne Baekgaard, attended the panel in addition to Professor Chen and Kitay. The session was moderated by NutraIngredients-AsiaEditor-in-Chief Gary Scattergood.
In this last session dedicated to the marketing of probiotic products, it was emphasized that strong scientific evidence and efficacy is needed to support any health claims made by companies when launching products on the market.
“The selection of which probiotic strains to incorporate into products has yet to be validated by scientific evidence, and this is very crucial for any product design we undertake. “Dr Tataranni said in his opening speech.
“[This is to ensure the various factors] such as ingredients, flavor profiles, learning what works best for cell viability, how processing can be made more favorable for the probiotic strain, and most importantly, stability testing to ensure that the number of probiotics at the end of the shelf remains appropriate.
“COVID-19 has prompted many consumers to seek out functional products such as probiotics to help them take control of their health and has accelerated the trend and the belief that ‘good nutrition is synonymous with good results’ by many. times, [so there are] many growth opportunities in the field of intestinal well-being in the broad sense and in particular in the field of probiotics [as long as] all players are disciplined about their claims and back them up with solid science]. “
Baekgaard agreed with the advice, reminding the audience that consumers will be able to tell if a product makes a claim but the health benefits are not showing through.
“Strong scientific evidence for health benefits is really the only way to ensure that the products sold have the effects they claim and that consumers can feel the difference” she says.
“Consumers pay a significant amount of money to buy these products. never see returning customers.
“There is however a distinct difference between supplements and drugs and the scientific evidence needed for both – this is something that needs to be communicated well by all companies and the message needs to be clear to be sustainable.
“As for the complicating factors in terms of getting ‘enough’ evidence, this is probably because there are many companies working on many different ingredients in this space. It is still important to deepen the science and perform the experiments and confirmatory tests necessary to help boost the product.
Delivery formats – functional foods and beverages
Today, probiotics are no longer confined to being sold in capsule or powdered supplement form, but are increasingly incorporated into everyday foods and drinks – a trend Professor Chen highlighted as being very important for the sector.
“Incorporating probiotics into foods and drinks is very much in line with the changing lifestyles of today’s consumers, where the urban consumer wants things fast and convenient, including their intake of probiotics. “he said.
“This is why existing foods with health-promoting elements, such as probiotics, are very well received by consumers, and it is very important to consider the element of convenience for them. [to ensure commercial success]. “
For example, Professor Chen’s team developed probiotic ice cubescontaining 25g Bifidobacterium lactiswhich can be used like regular ice cubes, but with the addition of probiotics.
“The basis of this innovation was versatility – instead of looking for specific supplements or fermented drinks to improve gut health, this probiotic ice cream is a neutral platform where consumers can improve their men’s health with any. what drink of their choice, juice to alcohol, just by adding those ice cubes, “he said.
Ice cubes have already been successfully marketed in Singapore, being sold in NTUC Fairprice supermarkets nationwide.
Dr Yun de Yili argued that in China, at present, the most effective formats for bringing probiotics to the masses are still via drinks, although he acknowledged that as the industry evolves , future applications and formats are still likely to emerge.
“In terms of ease and convenience to carry while traveling, we still find probiotics in tablet and powder form to be the most popular.”he added.
As for Professor Liu and Chan, their lab is working on development coffee and tea probiotics, Using heat resistant probiotic yeast.
“There is this huge trend today to functionalize drinks, and we are looking to do that with coffee and tea by adding probiotics. “said Professor Liu.
“We use Bacillus spores which are resistant to harsh environments, so they have a stable shelf life and are ideal for use even in hot coffees and teas. “
Chan added that the main concern when it comes to developing probiotic drinks is viability, so the importance of food science research is seen here in terms of finding ways around technical challenges.
“That said, while the scientific knowledge we have about food science is advanced today, it should be borne in mind that a lot of the evidence we have on probiotics comes from supplement studies – when they are applied to functional foods and drinks, we do not yet know for sure how consumption of these could change cell expressions or morphologies, or if the health benefits are different ”,she says.
While probiotics are already a functional product, consumers today are now looking beyond products that only contain probiotics, but want multi-functionality with every purchase they make.
“We are seeing megatrends in combining multi-strain probiotics with vitamins as well as herbs or plants to increase product functionality,”Henrikssen said.
“Some commonly added items include vitamins C and D, minerals like zinc and calcium, and herbal / botanicals like echinacea and ginkgo. These “combo” products have seen their sales increase by 60% via e-commerce in the past two years since the start of 2019.
“These actives can cover many areas of health, from brain health to weight reduction, cardiovascular health, urogenital health and more. For example, a product targeting relaxation may include the probiotic strain Lacticaseibacillus paracasei Lpc-37 which is scientifically proven to reduce stress in addition to phosphatidylserine (PS) which is beneficial for memory and cognition.
For Funday, specialized in manufacturing healthier sweets and offers a range of sweets with prebiotics, the multifunctionality for the company lies in the fact that it must also be both vegetable and reduced in sugar, in line with current trends in confectionery.
“For all foods, including functional foods, the goal is that the food always tastes the same as regular foods.Kitay said.
“Then came the addition of prebiotic fibers, which resulted in a change in cooking times, temperatures, etc. But it was all necessary to meet current consumer demands in line with current trends and to ensure that we retain their customers. “
Zhang, whose company ffit8 produces probiotic protein barsand protein powders, added that protein foods are also experiencing increasing demand in markets such as China, and additional features such as probiotics can only increase their attractiveness.
“Chinese consumers are looking for a better quality of life [and] products that can give them that, so there is a huge market for the “foodisation” of probiotics here ”he said.
Rapidly growing market
Overall, speakers and panelists agreed that the market for probiotic products is growing rapidly and has enormous potential, especially in the post-pandemic period.
“The size of the probiotics market is increasing as consumer health awareness increases due to COVID-19”, Muto said.
“Many companies are planning to develop or reformulate new products using functional ingredients such as probiotics, and this covers a wide variety of products from yogurt, yogurt drinks and fortified milk to chocolates and more. [so the opportunities are immense]. “
The probiotic markets in China, Japan and South Korea have also been highlighted as some of the most exciting right now.
“China is getting a lot of interest because there are a lot of potential users of probiotics there, and places like Japan and South Korea are also at the forefront as these markets are a bit more liberal for them. authorize new products “,Baekgaard said.
Professor Yun added that there are many more opportunities to be seized, especially since there are many products currently focused on immunity and gut health.
“There was of course a big boom in immunity products last year due to COVID-19, and this is expected to continue to grow as there are still many companies launching new products, but there are has a lot of other features to explore. “he said.
“These include benefits such as improved mineral absorption or metabolic syndrome, which I think will be popular in the future; as well as personalized and precision nutrition, although this area is likely to require a lot more work before it becomes mainstream.