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The holistic health opportunity: Responding with combined prebiotic and probiotic solutions

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Sophie Zillinger Molenaar, Global Marketing Lead Biotis, FrieslandCampina Ingredients

The rise of the holistic health trend

Holistic health is about the pursuit of all-round well-being and the recognition that different aspects of health are interlinked and impact each other, both mentally and physically. It’s one of the hottest trends now, as consumers are looking to support their physical and mental well-being with ingredients that offer a health boost beyond only nutrition.

And, for holistic well-being, there is no better place to start than the gut.

While there is still much to learn about what influences gut microbiota composition and activity and the subsequent impact on our health and well-being, savvy consumers, curious about the latest health research, have caused an explosion of interest in gut health.[1]

In fact, 2 in 3 consumers recognize that gut health is key to achieving overall well-being,[1]​ and 77% of consumers in the Asia-Pacific region recognize the link between digestive health and their immune health, including 80% in Australia, 77% in Japan, 75% in South Korea and 74% in Indonesia.[2]

Additionally, the number one reason why Asia-Pacific consumers want to improve their digestive health is to feel more relaxed (57%), with consumers in Australia (65%), Indonesia (64%) and South Korea (64%) at the top of the list.[2]​ This is an indication that gut health problems can impact sleeping patterns, the ability to relax and unwind, and contribute to poor mental health through feelings of awkwardness.[3]

At the same time as this shift in the consumer mindset, scientific research has made it increasingly apparent that overall health and well-being is founded on good gut health.[3]​ As a result, there is an opportunity for brands to provide scientifically backed probiotic and prebiotic products to unlock multiple health benefits and meet the rising consumer need for a more holistic approach to health.

Microbiota moves mainstream

Gut microbiota, the thousands of microbial species encompassed within our gastro-intestinal tract, have a remarkable potential to influence our physiology, both in health and in disease,[3]​ stretching far beyond the digestive system itself.

A healthy gut is not only associated with protection against infections,[3]​ but is also linked to sleep and mood via the gut-brain axis.[4]​ Research indicates that dysbiosis in the gut microbiota is associated with sleep disturbances,[5]​ which in itself can be linked to a hampered immune system.[6]​ Therefore, the gut seems to play an important role in affecting susceptibility to disease.[3]

And much of this science – such as that of the gut-brain axis – is becoming mainstream knowledge. The result is that consumers are becoming more aware – and actively interested in – how solutions that support gut health​ may support other areas of their health. In fact, market research shows that consumers in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly associating probiotics​,[7]​ which once dominated the gut health discussion, with benefits in other areas of health, such as: sleep health (51%),[8]​ digestive health (64%),[9]​ heart health (50%),[10]​ and skin health (37%).[10]

Probiotics have, of course, been successfully formulated into dairy products and supplements for many years, and innovative strains are beginning to be used in other formats, but they are also notoriously challenging and sensitive to processing, somewhat hampering their use in other functional products. Successful NPD requires a strong understanding of formulation with probiotics. The manufacturing process can impact probiotics’ physiological effects. In fact, formulations are often ‘overdosed’ to ensure enough probiotics survive processing. Additionally, it’s important to understand what can be added to formulations to enhance their production and effects.

Taking it further with prebiotics

This is where prebiotics[11]​ come in. Fortifying probiotic solutions with additional prebiotics can help formulators support probiotic viability. Probiotics have been shown to support a healthy microflora, reinforce gut barrier integrity, and help relieve abdominal discomfort.[12]​ And prebiotics offer similar benefits by supporting the production of beneficial bacteria in the gut. For example, prebiotics, such as FrieslandCampina Ingredients’ Biotis​      GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides)​, have been shown to influence the balance of the gut microbiota[13],[14]​,[15]​,[16]​,[17]​producing beneficial effects on gut health.,[17]​,[18]​,[19]

Combining probiotic solutions with prebiotics can also help tap into the preference for consumers wanting to improve multiple health areas at once. Prebiotics have been shown to help successfully support a multitude of health benefits, making them an optimal solution for enhancing the benefits of probiotics beyond digestive health.

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New concepts for the gut health market from FrieslandCampina Ingredients and Lallemand Health Solutions that combine prebiotics and probiotics​ 

Clinical studies using Biotis      GOS, for example, showed that it can help support normal stress levels and support overall mental well-being.[20]​ And the research into what diverse, balanced     , and stable gut microbiota could deliver is just getting started – muscle strength, bone health, nutrient uptake, and resilience to circadian disruption, amongst others, are all areas of interest to researchers right now. In essence, combined prebiotic and probiotic solutions could allow formulators to create enhanced solutions which respond to growing interest in supporting overall health simultaneously.

And while the science is demonstrating the benefits of prebiotics in supporting the benefits of probiotic function and production, consumers are also beginning to take note – 67% already associate prebiotics with digestive health, but over a third (39%) now associate them with cognitive health benefits, too.[10]

Addressing the format challenge

What’s more, consumers don’t just want products that support them on their holistic health journey – they want them in convenient formats that suit their day-to-day lives. Increasingly, shoppers expect to see functional food and drink products on shelves that are positioned to help them in their health and wellness goals. They also expect more from their supplement options, such as shots, gummies, and smaller, more convenient pills and capsules. To top it off, consumers also don’t want to compromise on taste and texture—products must be functional, effective, convenient and taste good.

The challenge for manufacturers is formulating products that respond to each of these needs and deliver health benefits, without compromise. 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 prebiotics are acid and heat stable, tasteless, easily applied into an array of applications, including powders, yoghurts, drinks, shots, gummies, and bars. They can also be formulated with additional ingredients such as protein for added benefits. But it’s worth knowing that not all ingredients are created equal—many prebiotics and probiotics can’t be used in drinks, for example, because they’re not heat or acid-stable and their fibres would break during processing, impacting their efficacy. Delivering on consumer expectations for taste and efficacy is all about the right mix. Effective partnerships combining formulation know-how with the latest consumer and market expertise is vital to ensure success in launching new products in this area. 

As consumers become increasingly health-conscious, targeting the gut microbiome in NPD is proving a powerful tool to address health concerns. Combined prebiotic and probiotic solutions can take formulations to the next level, working complementarily to enhance effectiveness. And demand for combined solutions is increasing – in 2020, over half (54%) of probiotics also contained prebiotics in their formulation.[21]​  But balancing effectiveness with demands for tasty and convenient products hasn’t always been easy. Most probiotics, for example, require careful handling to ensure their efficacy. Bringing together formulation and scientific expertise is essential to bring these products to life – it’s why FrieslandCampina Ingredients partnered with probiotics experts Lallemand Health Solutions​. With the need for a more all-round approach to health, existing consumer understanding of probiotics and growing awareness of the benefits of prebiotics, consumers are beginning to take note of combined holistic health solutions, so the time to collaborate and innovate is now.

[1]​ Innova Top Ten Trends 2022
[2]​ FMCG Gurus – Digestive Health survey, 2020
[3]​ Mousa et al., 2022
[4]​ Montiel-Castro et al., 2013
[5]​ Sen et al., 2021
[6]​ Irwin, M.R., 2019
[7]​ Hill, C., et al., 2014
[8]​ FMCG Gurus, Sleep & Stress Management Survey, 2020
[9]​ FMCG Gurus, Digestive Health survey, 2020
[10]​ FMCG Gurus, Cognitive Health survey, 2021
[11]​ Gibson et al., 2017
[12]​ Basturk et al., 2016; Erdogan et al., 2012; Islek et al., 2014
[13]​ Krumbeck et al., 2018
[14]​ Johnstone et al., 2021
[15]​ Ladirat et al., 2014
[16]​ Walton et al., 2012
[17]​ Schoemaker et al 2022
[18]​ Teuri & Korpela, 1998
[19]​ Sairanen et al., 2007
[20]​ Johnstone et al., 2021
[21]​ Lumina Intelligence, Nov 2020

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