Vitafoods: Biotics gaining interest as consumers look at health holistically

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“Consumers today are increasingly aware of the close connection of physical health and their mental and emotional wellbeing,”​ says Dr Marta Tortajada Serra, Vice President Science & Technology, Health & Wellness, at ADM, in a preview to the presentation she will be giving at Vitafoods on October 6.

Citing findings from the company’s Outside Voice consumer insights platform, she will reveal that 84% of US consumers see mental health as being equally important as physical wellbeing.

Consequently, shoppers are searching for foods, beverages and dietary supplements that proactively support both elements of wellbeing – a quest that increasingly leads to biotics (pro-, pre-, post- and synbiotics).

“With more consumers connecting the dots between the foundational role of the gut microbiome and holistic wellbeing, microbiome-supporting solutions like biotics are gaining interest. Consumers are starting to link probiotics to a wide range of benefits, with gut health the most prominent and overall wellbeing following close behind,”​ she told Nutraingredients.

These observations are backed up by findings from ADM’s 2021 Buzzback report, that found 72% of UK consumers believe that probiotics are beneficial to general health.

Opportunities in digestive, immune and skin health

The Science & Technology VP says that people are now indicating that they’re focusing on preventative health, with immune function and digestive health as essential factors in maintaining overall wellbeing.

She references an FMCG Gurus recent report which stated that globally, 65% of consumers are more conscious about their immunity due to COVID-19 (‘How has COVID-19 Changed Consumer Behavior’, March 2021).

To this end, ADM will be showcasing its Fibersol product at the event in Geneva. Produced in a joint venture with Matsutani LLC, this is a prebiotic solution that is said to promote the growth of beneficial gut microbes.

Tortajada Serra also highlights skin health as an important aspect of holistic wellbeing for many consumers, citing data from FMCG Gurus’ 2021 Beauty from Within report: 40% of consumers globally stated that they wanted to address psoriasis over the next 12 months, compared to just 19% in 2018.

While typically the treatment for psoriasis includes topical therapies, phototherapy and systemic treatments, she said consumers are increasingly seeing additional ways to manage their own symptoms.

“Our microbiome-supporting opportunities help address the gut-skin axis as it may be possible that the dysbiosis of the gut microbiome can alter systemic immune function, which may be associated with impaired skin health. For instance, clinical studies on our strains show impactful results for skin health when used with standard-of-care practices.”

Flavour directions point to mint, coffee and citrus

In terms of flavour trends, Tortajada Serra says that signalling flavours and ingredients such as citrus and botanicals that consumers associate with vitamin C and immune function support are catching shoppers’ attention.

Moreover, the focus on mental wellbeing has given way to heightened attention on energy and mood-boosting benefits. In this space, she says that mint is currently trending as it prompts both feelings of awakening and calmness, whilst coffee flavours are playing well as a source of caffeine.

When it comes to formats, choice and variety are key search criteria for consumers, according to ADM. Data from the company’s Outside Voice consumer insights platform indicates that beverages, dairy and supplements are the top three preferred probiotic categories, and that people are most interested in consuming probiotics in easy, drinkable systems.

Tortajada Serra adds that personalised offerings that fit into consumers’ everyday routines and lifestyles will continue to succeed.

“From fortified drinks and sparkling waters to gummies, powders and nutrient-dense bars, manufacturers must continue to pinpoint innovative ways to deliver highly sought-after benefits in convenient formats.”

ADM produces biotic strains such as HT-BPL1 – which it will also showcase at the show next month. As HT-BPL1 is a heat-treated strain, it can withstand harsh processing conditions, making it suitable for a wider range of applications than some biotics.

What does a biotic consumer look like?

“Consumers interested in biotics and microbiome-supporting products are not limited to one demographic bucket. However, they do present many of the same behaviours when it comes to health and wellness,”​ notes Tortajada Serra.

Common ‘behaviours’ include: being informed about different solutions; being proactive about their holistic wellbeing by tackling future health concerns now; being acutely aware of mental health; and looking for flexibility in the offerings they consume.

She says that with the role of the microbiome as a “gateway to wellness”​, consumers are hoping to address their long term health needs today.

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