Chr. Hansen sets sights on Indian expansion with patented probiotic strain
The supplier acquired a patented version of the strain, called LGG, from Finnish company Valio in 2016, and has since developed numerous formats for a variety of applications.
Chr. Hansen's APAC sales director Gernot Stadlmann told NutraIngredients-Asia: "The probiotic market in India is growing at the rate of 15% to 18% per year, and we see the need to provide shelf-stable products, considering the climatic conditions in India.
"There is good opportunity for clinically documented products with specific benefits that are properly described. Indian consumers are more discerning about the supplements they consume, or that are recommended by healthcare professionals."
He added that the country has one of the world's largest youth populations, with increasing urbanisation and affluence giving millennials greater spending power. While India is still fairly traditional in the area of food, that is slowly changing, thanks to the aforementioned factors.
"Functional food is a somewhat new concept in India. At Chr. Hansen, we see an opportunity to move consumers towards packaged value-added milk products.
"Probiotics are also getting popular, driven by its benefits for digestive health. The popular formats are sticks (powder sachets) and capsules. With the shift towards nutraceuticals, we expect to see more formats introduced in the coming years."
At the same time, constant exposure to technology and social media also means consumers have more access to information, but might be overwhelmed and confused by the vast array of conflicting claims made about probiotics.
Stadlmann said, "For example, consumers — not just in India — think that if food is fermented, it contains probiotics. The reality is not all fermented food contains probiotics.
"We see education as a key way to close the gaps and correct misconceptions consumers may have of probiotics. Strains and dosages matter; the probiotics they choose should be supported by research and clinical studies."
Chr. Hansen has so far launched LGG in India, China, Australia and South Korea, with a recently concluded mega city tour in India under its belt.
Seminars on specifics
Along with Chr. Hansen's national sales manager for India, Gaurav Bhatia, scientific advisor Ulla Holmboe Gondolf visited the country's four largest cities to conduct seminars on the specifics of LGG for a total of over 3,000 healthcare professionals.
Stadlmann said having experts share the science behind the probiotics with the firm's customers would help them educate consumers.
"The recent tour in India on LGG is an example. We realised healthcare professionals may not have all the information regarding probiotics, especially for LGG. It was a good opportunity for us to share further on the benefits of probiotics, especially LGG, and to answer the questions they had."
The firm has been partnering with key players in India to introduce LGG to the market since it acquired the trademarks two years ago.
Stadlmann revealed: "We have partnered with a major pharmaceutical MNC that has offices in India, and we are in the process of exploring partnerships with a few other companies. But at the moment, I am not at liberty to reveal more details."
Gondolf told NutraIngredients-Asia that LGG is available in powder format to be added into infant formula, and stick form to be taken directly or added to drinks or food.
"It also comes in probiotic capsules, oil drops, and chewable tablets, and can be added into spoonable yogurt and drinking yogurt."
She added that Chr. Hansen had developed ProKids, which combined LGG with yogurt culture so customers could produce their own probiotic-rich yogurt meant for children. At the same time, LGG is used in dietary supplements suitable across age groups.
The science of success
According to Gondolf, Chr. Hansen took an interest in LGG thanks to the strain's stability and versatility.
"Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG is the world’s best documented strain and is supported by more than 1,200 scientific publications. We also have extensive experience of over 10 years in producing LGG, and we use genetic fingerprinting to confirm it carries no genetic risks."
She added that a component called pili was crucial to maximising the beneficial effects of LGG: "Pili are hair-like structures on the cell surface of LGG — they help LGG to adhere to surfaces in the environment, such as mucus in the gut.
"Research has shown that pili are important for mucus adherence and persistence in the gastrointestinal tract. This is very important for its functionality.
"Acquiring the rights to LGG from Valio perfectly sat with our strategy to make LGG available to our customers. We also acquired a strain collection that will allow us to develop products from different strains in future."