Prebiotic plan: Aussie brand looks to psychobiotics to fuel product and market expansion

By Cheryl Tay

- Last updated on GMT

The product  is a vanilla-flavoured prebiotic powder that can be added to a variety of foods and beverages, and is designed to support gut health and by extension, brain health and positive mood.
The product is a vanilla-flavoured prebiotic powder that can be added to a variety of foods and beverages, and is designed to support gut health and by extension, brain health and positive mood.

Related tags psychobiotics Prebiotics Australia gut-brain axis

Australian brand Uplift Food is seeking to expand its range of products for gut health and cognitive function, basing its formulations on the emerging science of psychobiotics.

According to founder Kara Landau — also known as the Travelling Dietitian — the brand's flagship product, the Daily Uplifter, has so far received positive consumer feedback since its debut in Australia in March and subsequent US launch.

The product — which comes in 425g packs for the Aussie market and 192g packs for the US market — is a vanilla-flavoured prebiotic powder that can be added to a variety of foods and beverages, designed to support gut health and by extension, brain health and positive mood.

Prebiotic power

Landau told NutraIngredients-Asia​: "Two weeks after launching in Australia, the product got picked up by one of the top accelerators in New York, Food-X. This basically fast-tracked the company's American launch, and we've now set up production in the US."

"What's great about it is that it's not just a digestive health powder but an all-in-one product that's completely allergen-free and made from organic, natural ingredients — there are no artificial binders, preservatives or sweeteners."

The Australian product contains two types of prebiotics, one of which is derived from Jerusalem artichoke, while the other is green banana resistant starch. There is also a blend of five probiotic strains, included in amounts clinically proven to positively affect gut and mental health.

In addition, Landau included high-vitamin D mushrooms, which she says provides the user with 50% of his RDI (recommended daily intake), and calcium-rich aquamin sea mineral complex (12.5% RDI). 

The version of the product sold in the US does, however, have a slight difference in formulation from the one sold in Australia.

Landau explained: "In the US formulation, there are three different types of prebiotics, in addition to the green banana resistant starch and Jerusalem artichoke prebiotics — I've included a xylo-oligosaccharide (XOS), which has been shown in the levels provided to have a bifidogenic effect, supporting the probiotics in the gut.

"In the original formulation, there is a higher dose of prebiotics from Jerusalem artichoke, and that level has been shown to provide a bifidogenic effect. In the US formulation, I reduced the amount of prebiotics from Jerusalem artichoke and replaced that with the xylo-oligosaccharide, which was more readily available in the US.

"It was a different way of providing the same benefit. I also had to consider that the type of prebiotics found in Jerusalem artichoke can sometimes contribute to negative reactions in people who are highly sensitive to it, such as those with IBS."

The US formulation also contains two probiotic strains, Lactobacillus Helveticus ​ROO52 and Bifidobacterium Longum RO175​, pumpkin seeds — which are rich in magnesium (10% of the individual's RDI) — and high-vitamin D mushrooms (38% RDI).

She added that so far, feedback from customers in both markets has been positive.

Educational and emotional appeal

Landau, who is an Australian gut health expert, dietitian, author and presenter, has been based in New York for the past seven years.

She believes Uplift Food's strategy of educating consumers and appealing to their emotions is one that will likely drive its expansion into Europe and further into APAC.

"Unlike a lot of brands, which put a sprinkling of certain ingredients in their products so they can make claims about them, I've made sure to include dosages that have been scientifically proven to support either gut health or mental health.

"The brand is all about educating people on the connection between gut health and mood, so it's focused on psychobiotics. Interestingly, it also appeals to people's emotions, as it supports their desire to feel empowered and happy."

In addition to the Daily Uplifter, Uplift Food's online store also carries a variety of books authored by Landau, which contain information on prebiotics and the link between gut and mental health, as well as recommended recipes to support gut and brain health.

She said, "My mission as a dietitian is to educate my peers so they can educate others, and simultaneously, to educate consumers directly."

Functional expansion

While Uplift Food is certain it will expand beyond Australia and the US, Landau has chosen not to draw up a definitive list of countries yet, focusing instead on adding to the brand's range of prebiotic products.

"I'm currently working on some functional snack products, and the goal is to launch them by the end of Q2 2019. I can't tell you exactly what they are just yet, but there's been a lot of interest from big MNCs, so I’m in the process of establishing relationships to get some support to launch these new products.

"We will also continue to source our ingredients internationally. Some people look for only local ingredients in their products, but the number one priority for Uplift Food is to focus on the nutritional elements, and in order to do that at a price people can afford, I went sourcing across the globe for the best ingredients."

Uplift Food's products are currently sold online and at natural grocers' in Australia, with plans to enter pharmacies and major supermarkets in the country. It also has local manufacturing and production facilities in Sydney and New York.

In the US and in future markets, the brand's model is to begin with solely online sales, responding to interest from retailers wherever viable.

In terms of overseas expansion, Landau has opted for a wait-and-see approach, preferring to respond to demand where she sees it.

"Australia has often been looked at positively in the Chinese market, so I suspect that would be an appropriate entry point. Having said that, there's already been interest from other countries such as Mauritius, so I’m quite open to working with partners in these countries.

"I haven't been actively searching, but I do think Asia is the right market because consumers are knowledgeable about gut health and interested in new brands and products."

She added that New Zealand was a "no-brainer"​, and that Hong Kong would be a lucrative market due to its high number of expatriates who were already aware of and interested in Uplift Food.

Still, she said, "The reality is I might not know where is best. The market knows where is best. If consumers think this would work in their particular market, they would be the best ones to say, 'We need this.'"

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