Probiotic foods are defined as a viable (live) microflora that can act as a dietary supplement and provide health benefits to the host (human, in this case) through its effects on the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They are used in the preparation of fermented milk products and have the potential to be successfully incorporated into fermented vegetables and meats. Probiotics have multiple beneficial health effects, ranging from enhancing immunity to relieving lactose intolerance. There is ample scientific evidence that probiotics reduce the risk of rotavirus-induced diarrhea and colon cancer.
Prebiotics, as the name suggests, are essentially the food provided by probiotic bacteria. Prebiotics are indigestible food ingredients/dietary fiber present in different fruits and vegetables, such as apples, bananas, onions, and garlic, that stimulate the growth or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thereby benefiting the host. . There is a great need for more research on prebiotics, in order to provide strong and conclusive evidence of their health-promoting effects. However, recent studies have provided valuable information on how taking prebiotics can improve mental health.
The global market for probiotics is estimated to reach a value of nearly USD 65 billion by 2022. Probiotics have a strong position in the functional foods market. Almost half of the functional foods available on the market are fermented milk products. A report by a market research company estimates that the global probiotic yogurt market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% over the period 2017-2022. There is a growing awareness of the health benefits of yogurt among consumers and a growing popularity of probiotic dietary supplements.
Probiotics include bacteria (lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, streptococci, etc.), as well as yeast. These bacteria have been found to increase the production of the enzyme lactase, which prevents lactose intolerance by fully digesting the sugar in milk, i.e. lactose. Apart from this, probiotics exhibit myriad health benefits such as preventing diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome by enhancing immunity. Additionally, the growing demand for probiotics stems from the fact that they induce health benefits that are not limited to just the gut. Probiotics are emerging as one of the most popular functional foods, going beyond their digestive health benefits, with conclusive clinical evidence suggesting the positive role probiotics play in some mental health disorders, cholesterol reduction and minimizing the severity of certain allergies and eczema. Probiotics in liquid form are the most popular and leading segment, as most of the new product launches in the market are mainly probiotic-based functional drinks.
The global market for prebiotics is estimated to reach a value of around USD 8 billion by 2022, driven mainly by the growing interest in gut-based treatments. Such interest is supported by recent scientific evidence validating the positive impact of gut bacteria on general health and well-being. The preventative approach to healthcare is becoming increasingly popular; consequently, there is an increase in the demand for functional foods. The growing concern about high rates of infant morbidity and mortality, as noted by the WHO, also increases the growing demand for prebiotics. Weight-management diets are also emerging, with an increasing number of consumers opting for high-fiber foods, strengthening the overall demand for prebiotics. The future growth trajectory of prebiotics depends on large-scale application of prebiotics, especially in nutraceuticals, making food and beverage application the fastest growing segment for prebiotics.
The prebiotic type of inulin is about to lead the market. It is a soluble dietary fiber that, by going through the intestinal fermentation process, greatly nourishes healthy microflora (Bifidobacterium). Inulin has also been found to improve flavor, texture and moisture in food products, thus providing essential added value. Galactooligosaccharide (GOS) is another popular prebiotic; contains a mixture of substances produced from lactose. Its slightly sweet taste makes it an ideal sweetener for baby food.
In terms of regions, the developed regions of North America and Europe account for most of the market share, for both prebiotics and probiotics. Rising consumer awareness and growing concerns about improving digestive health are driving markets in these regions. These regions have consistently witnessed the introduction of innovative functional products to meet the growing demand for prebiotics and probiotics. Asia-Pacific, led by India, Japan and China, represents the fastest growing market for prebiotics and probiotics, as markets in this region have not yet been penetrated or have experienced insufficient market penetration. Rising disposable income among this region’s rapidly growing middle class allows them to make discretionary purchases of more nutrient-dense and health-promoting foods, fueling market growth.
The global markets for prebiotics and probiotics are highly and moderately fragmented, respectively. Key players are increasingly investing in R&D for healthy product claims, launching new products that add variety to markets, thus providing more choice to consumers, while expanding players’ regional footprint.
There is no doubt that both prebiotics and probiotics benefit human health. Market sentiments are strong, especially in light of the growing health awareness seen globally. The well-established and documented safety profile of the new emerging prebiotics and probiotics is the first step in the direction of sustainable and organic market growth. Regulatory approvals, seen as a hurdle for this market, are highly dependent on strong safety data for different products, in addition to the authenticity of different health claims.
Probiotics suffer from a major problem, namely, they are heat and acid labile; therefore, a relatively small number of live probiotic organisms reach the intestine. However, the high-quality combination of prebiotics and probiotics is expected to confer, through symbiosis, greater health benefits so that the body can effectively and fully utilize the full health potential of probiotics. This is achieved by making the latter available in the large intestine and especially in the colon. There is increasing scientific evidence on the synergistic effect produced in the intestine and general health if high quality probiotics and prebiotics are taken together.