The probiotics industry has witnessed an exponential increase in the number of new research in the recent years, with more companies launching probiotics for providing benefits beyond gut health.
Some of the novel functions tap on the gut-brain axis, showing how probiotics could play a role in improving mood and mental health, while others claim benefits around skin, oral, immune and kidney health, as well as alleviating metabolic conditions.
The Swedish probiotic supplier itself is also looking into the use of probiotics to reduce the side effects of stress, bone loss, and improve iron status in pregnant women.
For new product development, the company believes that the understanding of the probiotic strain’s biochemical mechanisms is of high importance.
“We check on how our mechanisms work, how our products work, we try to deeply understand the mechanisms that are behind the benefits of our probiotics," Konrad van Praet, head of Probi APAC said.
“Based on the mechanisms, we will also have from the biochemistry point of view, a very good idea of what might be possible with that specific strain to benefit from it.”
Based on his observations, there is a higher demand for probiotics that address metabolic conditions, non-communicable diseases, and stress in APAC.
Keeping in mind the market demands, he stressed again the need for scientifically-backed evidence.
“We honestly believe that it is a very difficult track if you say a particular health claim is what that you want and you have the probiotics to work towards it.
“We more believe we have a certain product which we are convinced in because we have already seen certain reactions on how they can benefit the host. Then, we offer that to the market and generate the demand,” he pointed out.
The firm has conducted more than 90 clinical studies involving 9,000 subjects till date.
One of its clinical findings was published in The Lancet Rheumatology last month.
It showed that a combination of the strains LpHEAL9 (DSM 15312), LpHEAL19 (DSM 15313), and Lpa8700:2 (DSM 13434) can help maintaining strong and healthy bones by reducing bone loss in postmenopausal women.
Probiotic fruit juice
The preference for different product format was brought up as a key difference between Asia's probiotic market and that of Sweden, where Probi was founded.
In Sweden, while probiotic fruit juice is a popular consumer choice, it is not the same case in Asia.
van Praet pointed out how ProViva, a probiotic fruit juice which contains Probi’s flagship strain, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, was a popular product in Sweden.
A Euromonitor report published in April also showed that the brand had retained the highest value share of functional or fortified beverages last year, and the products can be found at almost every grocery stores in Sweden.
“The brand is even more expensive than the other fruit juice brands, but people buy it, and why do they buy it? Because they feel the benefits.
“We tried [to incorporate the probiotic strain into fruit juice in Asia], but here, fruit juice is not viewed as been so healthy," van Praet said.
He added that there were also fruit juice producers who complained that adding probiotics would make the production cost more expensive.
In the case of Asia, he pointed out that the more popular product applications were capsules, sachets and tablets.