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Good gut health: the gateway to more complete well-being

Vicky Davies, Global Marketing Director, Performance and Active Nutrition, FrieslandCampina Ingredients

Today’s consumers are focused on the pursuit of all-round wellness. They recognise that different aspects of health are interlinked, and as a result, not only do they want to make proactive choices to avoid future health issues, but they also consider how their diet and exercise impact other parts of their well-being, both mentally and physically.

While this shift in the mindset of consumers to a holistic and proactive approach was already taking shape before COVID-19, the pandemic has played a role in accelerating the movement. This is evident in the Asia-Pacific region, where 65% of consumers say that because of COVID-19 they have become more conscious about the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle.[1]

As a result, the spotlight has been placed on several health benefit areas, including immune, gut and brain health. This is not only a reflection of how problems in these health benefit areas are becoming more prevalent throughout society, but also consumers recognising the long-term health consequences associated with poor health in any of these three areas.

At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we’re looking to provide new and innovative solutions to the most current and pressing global health issues facing consumers—which is where Biotis™ comes in.

Biotis​ is a brand of targeted ingredient solutions which support health and wellness across the entire adult lifespan. Developed to work with the body’s natural processes, the Biotis™ platform focuses on ingredients, such as galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), that support health benefits and well-being for the immune, brain, and gut health markets.

Gut health, in particular, has such a large and varied impact on the body and mind that it is often seen as a gateway to more complete well-being.[2]

With the number of consumers reporting digestive health issues on the rise, combined with the trend towards whole body and mind wellness, and the increased research into the gut-brain axis, there is a significant—and growing—market that food, drink and supplement manufacturers can tap into.

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A good gut feeling

Digestive health is hitting the mainstream public health consciousness, and it’s welcome news for the 61% of Asia-Pacific consumers who experience digestive health issues at least once a week.[3]​ A combination of improved scientific understanding and the once taboo topic now being open for discussion are the first steps to alleviating digestive problems for millions of people throughout the region.

Good gut health can impact everything from sleep and stress to indigestion and heartburn, and taking proactive steps to improving digestive health isn’t just for people who specifically experience gut issues. For example, 66% of people globally are interested in digestive health products, even if they don’t suffer with specific complaints.[4],[5]

The consumer voice

Although digestive health issues are widespread, it is only relatively recently that these problems have become more widely discussed and understood. Therefore, understanding what consumers are thinking and feeling when it comes to their gut health is important.

Given the many potential triggers, the fact that Asia-Pacific consumer satisfaction with digestive health has dropped from 58% in 2018 to 47% in 2020 is unsurprising.[6]​ Looking at specific symptoms, Asia-Pacific consumers say gas (53%), bloating (48%) and constipation (47%) have been influential or very influential in their lives.[7]​ This regular disruption in people’s routines will push many to take proactive measures—and we are already seeing this take effect.

Food and drinks play an important role in this proactive consumer behaviour. Research suggests that more people are now seeking food and drinks positioned around digestive health, and 54% of consumers in Asia-Pacific may be more willing to pay a premium for the right ones.[8]

What motivates consumers?

With more consumers tackling problems, clear preferences have emerged. The top priority is more natural approaches as opposed to pharmaceuticals, followed by products that are easy to incorporate in their daily routines and free from possible side-effects.[9]

People are actively trying to improve their diets and digestive health claims in particular have drastically increased in popularity—from 2018 to 2020 interest in products with a digestive health claim increased from 50% to 65% of consumers.[10]

Ultimately, people want great tasting food and drinks that are good for them. But consumers’ perception of what is healthy has changed. Healthy choices have historically been presented as a reduction in things that are considered ‘bad’—sugar, fat and artificial additives for instance. Now, however, consumers are increasingly looking for additions that give them a supplementary health benefit.

Innovation opportunities

Looking ahead, gut health solutions that are tailored to people’s lifestyles and specific health issues will be an area of growth, as will single products that target multiple health concerns.

Women suffer from digestive health issues more commonly than men,[11]​ and they also account for an increasingly large proportion of the active nutrition market, but relatively few products are tailored to them or their goals. Therefore, there is an opportunity to create nutritious products that promote good digestive health and also support an active lifestyle that are targeted at women. The key to unlocking these kinds of personalisation opportunities is combining in-depth market insights with cutting edge technical expertise.

The science behind the trend 

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The gut microbiome is the dominant influencer of digestive health. Home to thousands of microbial species, it can be modulated and manipulated through diet. A healthy gut balance is achieved by controlling the growth of pathogenic  organisms and enhancing the numbers of healthy ones, such as Lactobacillus​ and Bifidobacterium​, the so-called ‘beneficial bacteria.’ These can be found in probiotic food sources[12]​ and / or augmented through the consumption of prebiotics.

Dietary probiotics once dominated the gut health discussion. While they are still popular with consumers today, prebiotics are now changing the game. Unlike probiotics, which are live organisms, prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrates. They are substrates that are selectively utilised by host microorganisms, conferring a health benefit[13]​. In other words, they are food for ‘good’ microbes. Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), prebiotics that are derived from the lactose in cow’s milk, have been the subject of extensive research for many years.

Scientific studies show that GOS provide a superior prebiotic effect[14]​ and improve gastrointestinal health.[15]​ In addition, clinical research reveals they significantly increase levels of Bifidobacteria​ in the gut of healthy adults with regular consumption.[16]​ This positively influences a range of conditions including constipation, bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain.[17

Digestive health: unlock innovative functional food and drinks

Similarly to mental health, gut health is shaking off its stigma and consumers want products that feel specific to them and their lifestyles. Prebiotics will be key to unlocking innovative functional food and drinks for better gut health. However, selecting the right partner to explore and expand in this exciting market is essential.

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FrieslandCampina Ingredients is unmatched when it comes to the volume of research into GOS prebiotics, such as Biotis™ GOS, and scientists continue to uncover their wider potential health benefits, including overall digestive health, immunity, and brain health. Learn more about Biotis™ GOS at biotis.com​.

References

[1]​ FMCG Gurus, 2021

[2]​ FMCG Gurus, digestive health surveys 2018-2020

[3]​ Zinklar concept test, 2021

[4]​ FMCG Gurus, digestive health survey 2018-2020

[5]​ Euromonitor, 2019

[6]​ FMCG Gurus, 2020

[7]​ FMCG Gurus, 2021

[8]​ FMCG Gurus, 2019

[9]​ FMCG Gurus, 2020

[10]​ FMCG Gurus, 2021

[11]​ American Physiological Society (APS). "Why gastrointestinal disorders afflict women more often." ScienceDaily, 30 March 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150330134409.htm>

[12]​ Gibson et al., 2017

[13]​ Gibson, G. R., Hutkins, R. W. & Prescott, S. L. Expert consensus document: The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) Consensus Statement on the Definition and Scope of Prebiotics. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 14, 491–502 (2017)

[14]​ Watson, D. et al.,2013. Stiverson, J. et al., 2014. Rada, V. et al., 2008. Rycroft, C. et al., 2001. Bouhnik, Y. et al. 2014

[15]​ Wilson, B. et al., 2019

[16]​ Walton, G. E. et al., 2012. Teuri, U. & Korpela, R., 1998. Surakka, A. et al., 2009. Vulevic, J. et al., 2018.

[17]​ Watson, D. et al.,2013. Stiverson, J. et al., 2014. Rada, V. et al., 2008. Rycroft, C. et al., 2001. Bouhnik, Y. et al. 2014