The rise of the gut-conscious consumer
The health-conscious consumer movement is shaping diets and lifestyles the world over. And gut health is one area where people are increasingly taking preventative measures to improve their overall well-being. In fact, data shows that, globally, 66% consumers are actively seeking digestive health products, even when not suffering from specific symptoms.1 And consumers in APAC agree – new research carried out by FrieslandCampina Ingredients with Nielsen shows that gut health is high on the agenda in big APAC markets, such as Australia, Japan, Korea, India, and Indonesia.
What’s more, at the same time as growing awareness of the importance of gut health, scientific research into the human microbiome is expanding consumers’ understanding of how the gut could be the key to unlocking a variety of health improvements – leading to interest in emerging solutions such as prebiotics.2 There is, therefore, an opportunity for brands to develop scientifically-backed digestive health products to unlock health benefits – here are 3 key trends you need to know to help target increasingly gut-conscious consumers in the APAC region.
1. Gut health goes mainstream
One side effect of increased health-consciousness is that previously established taboos, particularly around gut health, are fading. This leads to a greater consumer understanding of the importance of their gut health. In fact, in all the countries surveyed by FrieslandCampina Ingredients and Nielsen, over one third of consumers said that gut health was extremely important – reaching heights of 64% and 73% of consumers in Indonesia and India, respectively.3 This may be, in part, due to the widespread nature of digestive health complaints, some of which – such as constipation – were common top problems across all countries.2
But increased awareness of the importance of a healthy gut doesn’t stop at improved digestive function. While ingredients like pre and probiotics have long been recognised as an important functional ingredient for improving digestive health, we’re beginning to understand that a healthy gut doesn’t necessarily only mean a healthy digestive system.
Recent scientific research has linked the human gut microbiome to digestion, weight, immunity, brain health, sleep, mood and more. And much of this science is becoming mainstream knowledge – for example, immune health was one of the top reasons influencing purchase of gut-boosting products in all countries, with as many as 37% citing it in both Indonesia and India.
2. All eyes on emerging ingredients
Probiotics have, of course, been successfully formulated into gut health products such as dairy products and supplements for many years, contributing to wide consumer understanding of their benefits. Awareness of probiotics remains high among consumers across Japan (50%), India (60%), Australia (67%), Indonesia (72%) and Korea (81%).2
But consumers are starting to take note of novel ingredients such as prebiotics, too. In countries like Indonesia, as many as 71% of consumers are aware of prebiotics, and some countries are also becoming more familiar with specific types – 30% of consumers in India and 46% of consumers in Japan recognised prebiotic ingredients such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS).
What’s more, awareness of the wider benefits of prebiotics, beyond digestive health, is also on the rise – immune health was recognised as a key benefit specifically of prebiotics in countries such as Australia (35%), Japan (40%), and Korea (52%), while reducing stress and anxiety was one of the top recognised benefits of prebiotic GOS in India (50%).2
So, while probiotics are widely recognised to support a healthy microflora, reinforce gut barrier integrity, and help relieve abdominal discomfort,4 it’s clear that consumers understand that prebiotics offer similar benefits, as well as additional benefits in other health areas. One recent study conducted with FrieslandCampina Ingredients’ Biotis GOS showed that its prebiotic can influence the balance of the gut microbiota of adults, producing beneficial effects on overall gut health.5 They have also been shown to help successfully unlock benefits beyond digestive health. Multiple clinical studies have shown that GOS, for example, can improve anxiety levels and support overall mental well-being.6
3. Formats that matter
When it comes to formats, consumers want convenient products that suit their day-to-day lives. They expect to see a wider offering of tasty functional food and drinks that are positioned to help them meet their health and wellness goals, and they also expect more from their supplement formats – such as shots, gummies, and smaller, more convenient pills and capsules.
This trend is reflected across the APAC region – while dairy products (61%) and RTDs including shots (43%) are the most popular functional food formats for prebiotic formulations, supplements also score highly, with 48% choosing them as their preference. And for the most part, respondents across the APAC region preferred to consume their gut health products at regular intervals – either daily or 2-3 times a week, at breakfast time. Again, this shows a desire for products that easily fit into daily routines.2
Prebiotic ingredients can help brands to formulate products that align with these needs, addressing formulation challenges associated with the demand for more convenient products. While probiotics have been the go-to gut health ingredient for some time, they are sensitive to processing, which can hamper their use in some functional products. Prebiotics can help address formulation challenges associated with the demand for more convenient products. Some, like Biotis GOS, are designed specifically to respond to demand for convenient functional solutions. These innovative prebiotics are acid and heat stable, tasteless, easily applied into an array of applications, including powders, yoghurts, drinks, shots, gummies, and bars.
Gut health awareness is on the rise, and consumers in the APAC region are interested in the potential of a healthy gut in unlocking benefits, from improved digestion to immune health. But to tap into this lucrative market, formulators know they need to offer more innovative ingredients and formats. While probiotics remain the most recognisable gut health ingredient in APAC, partnering with suppliers to leverage emerging ingredients, like prebiotic GOS, can help brands tap into trending health benefits that deliver on consumers’ most pressing well-being priorities.
 FMCG Gurus, 2020
 Gibson et al., 2017
 Nielsen, ‘Assessing The Consumer Perceptions Of Gut Health & GOS, Prebiotics & Probiotics’, 2022
 Basturk et al., 2016; Erdogan et al., 2012; Islek et al., 2014
 Wilson et al., 2019; Teuri et Korpela, 1998; Sairanen et al., 2007;
 Johnstone et al., 2021; Cohen Kadosh, et al, 2021