Loving local: Malaysia's bestselling probiotic brand Lacto-5 on NPD plans, sales strategies, and consumer trends
The ASX-listed company is well-known for its probiotic brand Lacto-5 which has been in the market for about 15 years and also Pristin, its flagship fish oil brand.
According to market research platform Lumina Intelligence, Lacto-5 is the bestselling probiotic brand in Malaysia’s e-commerce platform.
On the other hand, the International Probiotics Association (IPA) pointed out last year that Malaysia was the second fastest growing probiotic market, only behind the UK, with a growth rate of 14 per cent yoy.
Under the Lacto-5 brand, there are two product SKUs, including Lacto-5 and Lacto-5 Gold.
As its name suggests, Lacto-5 contains five locally derived probiotic strains – including those from fermented vegetables, soil, and breastfeeding mothers. The probiotic strains were developed in collaboration with Melaka Biotechnology Corporation.
The five strains are namely Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bacillus subtillis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium longum, and Streptococcus thermophilus. Both products contain 2bn CFU of each probiotic strain.
Launched about four years ago, Lacto-5 Gold also contains the prebiotic fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), isomaltulose, and Ohtaka Superfood – which consists of 50 types of fruits and vegetables fermented for six months from Japan.
As such, Lacto-5 Gold is meant for detoxification and rejuvenation, on top of its benefits for the gut.
Both products contain freeze-dried probiotics, which means that the probiotics are temperature-stable and could be transported and stored without the need for refrigeration.
“Lacto-5 is made specifically for Malaysians because our diet consists of a lot of spices and it is very different from the Western diet. This means that our locally derived probiotics tend to endure longer in the gut.
“Also, we know that when we are exposed to different bacteria present in different environment and food, there could be sudden changes to our gut microbiome, and this can cause problems such as Traveller’s diarrhoea. This is why using locally derived probiotics is important and will be much better suited for the locals,” Serena Yap, assistant brand manager told NutraIngredients-Asia.
She said that the five strains work by colonising different parts of the gastrointestinal tract, instead of having all strains targeting the same site.
“Probiotics are live organisms. If there are too many different probiotic strains used in a product, it is actually not very beneficial. They will compete for food, space, and water in the human gastrointestinal tract.
“As such, they cannot maximise their effects and in turn, this will not benefit the consumer either.
“For Lacto-5, the five strains work synergistically by going to a particular section of our gastrointestinal tract. For example, two of the strains will go to the big intestine and three to the small intestine.
“In this way, each strain can do their job best and colonise that particular section of the gut,” she explained.
Asked the new product development plans, Yap revealed that the company was in the process of developing a probiotic for immune health and might also incorporate vitamin D into it.
“Lacto-5 is a very good probiotic brand available in the market for the past 15 years. It is mainly targeted for general maintenance and gut health. Last year, the survey done by IQVia/ Nielsen showed that we were the No. 1 Malaysian probiotic.
“While all probiotics improve immunity, we are looking into a probiotic strain that is meant to improve the immune health. This is still in the product development process.
“The probiotic strain is heavily studied and backed up with a lot of research. It will be very significant for the current COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
The new product is expected to be launched in the second quarter of next year.
Most probiotic supplements in the market are heavily focused on the probiotic component, such as the number of strains used. In fact, there are products out there that contain 20 different strains.
However, there is less discussion on how probiotics could be complemented with other ingredients – not just to provide a better gut health but also to provide a complete gut nutrition.
This is why our brand development team and the marketing team have decided that we have to come up with new products that we think the consumers will need. We want to be proactive in this sense.
This was also the reason why we have developed Lacto-5 Gold in the first place. It is a complete gut nutrition product providing not only probiotics, but also prebiotics and a superfood blend.
Serena Yap, Assistant Brand Manager, Holista Colltech
While the probiotic market in Malaysia has been growing, Yap noted that there was a need for targeted consumer education.
This is because most consumers only have a basic understanding of probiotics.
“Because of the internet, we have access to more information and knowledge and people are more educated about probiotics these days.
“Also, with the popularity of yogurt and probiotic drinks, more consumers now understand what a probiotic is and that it is good for the gut health.
“However, most yogurt and probiotic drinks do contain sugar – which some consumers will want to avoid. Moreover, when you really have an issue, you can’t be drinking 10 bottles of the yogurt drink a day.
“Therefore, some consumers will move on to do their research and buy probiotic supplements for therapeutic purposes.”
She noticed that consumers lacked the knowledge in choosing the right probiotic product and also the wider benefits of probiotics.
“Most Malaysian consumers do not know how to choose a good probiotic. They do not understand what makes a good probiotic and how probiotic is not just useful for gut health.
“Of course (gut health) is one of the main benefits of probiotics, but it is not just about that. Probiotics can help with detoxification, boost our immune systems, and even improve skin health. There needs to be more targeted education for the consumers.”
In the case of Lacto-5, she said that most consumers purchased the product due to the word-of-mouth and that there were more female and male consumers.
Due to a longer legacy and a convenient dosage format, Lacto-5 which comes in the form of a capsule, is at the moment, more popular than Lacto-5 Gold is in the sachet powder beverage form.
The company will be focusing more on the practitioner’s channel in the coming months.
At the moment, Lacto-5 is sold mainly in both offline and online pharmacies, Holista Colltech's direct-selling website Alterni, and also to some general practitioners.
“We have heard more feedback about doctors prescribing Lacto-5 probiotics to their patients who then purchase the probiotics from the pharmacies.
“We will be having our sales force to focus more on the doctor’s channel to tell them about our brand and our products.”
On top of this, the company is also conducting webinars to engage doctors on the benefits of dietary supplements, including probiotics and fish oil.