The word, ‘bacteria’, often conveys a wrong notion of something that exclusively causes illness. Not all bacteria cause disease; there are many species of ‘good’ bacteria that improve and maintain our overall health. In fact, our entire body, and especially our stomach, is an abode of different bacterial species, which work day in and day out to keep our metabolism efficient and effective. Let’s explore these wonderful and beneficial creatures.
Probiotic food is defined as viable (live) micro-flora that can act as dietary supplements and provide health benefits to the host (humans, in this case) through their effects in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They are used in the preparation of fermented dairy products and have the potential to be successfully incorporated in fermented vegetables and meats. Probiotics have manifold health-beneficial effects, ranging from immunity enhancement to alleviation of lactose intolerance. There is ample scientific evidence of probiotics reducing the risk of rotavirus-induced diarrhea and colon cancer.
Prebiotics, as the name suggests, are essentially the nourishment provided for the probiotic bacteria. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients/dietary fiber present in different fruits and vegetables, like apples, bananas, onions, and garlic, which stimulates the growth of, or the activity of, one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, consequently benefiting the host. There is a strong need for more research on prebiotics, in order to be able to provide strong and conclusive evidence of their health-promoting effects. However, recent studies have provided valuable insights into how the intake of prebiotics may result in improved mental health.
The global probiotics market is estimated to reach a value of almost USD 65 billion by 2022. Probiotics have a robust position in the functional foods market. Almost half of the functional foods available in the market comprise of fermented dairy products. A report by a market research firm estimates that the global probiotic yogurt market is poised to grow at a CAGR of 6.5% during the period of 2017–2022. There is growing awareness about the health benefits of yogurt among the consumers and an increasing popularity of probiotic dietary supplements.
Probiotics include bacteria (Lactobacilli, Bifidobacteria, Streptococcus, etc.), as well as yeast. These bacteria are found to increase lactase enzyme production, which prevents lactose intolerance by completely digesting the milk sugar, i.e., lactose. Apart from this, probiotics exhibit myriad health benefits, like the prevention of diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome by enhancing immunity. Moreover, the growing demand for probiotics stems from the fact that they induce health benefits that are not limited to just gut. Probiotic is emerging as one of the more popular functional foods, moving beyond its digestive health benefits, with conclusive clinical evidence suggesting the positive role probiotics play in some mental health disorders, in reducing cholesterol and minimizing the severity of certain allergies and eczema. Probiotic in the liquid form is the most popular and leading segment, as the majority of the new product launches in the market are primarily probiotics-based functional beverages.
The global prebiotic market is estimated to reach a value of about USD 8 billion by 2022, primarily driven by the growing interest in gut-based treatments. Such interest is supported by recent scientific evidence validating the positive impact of gut bacteria on overall health and wellbeing. The preventive approach to healthcare is becoming increasingly popular; consequently, there is a surge in the demand for functional foods. Growing concern for high rates of infant morbidity and mortality, as pointed out by WHO, also augments the growing demand for prebiotics. Weight-management diets are also emerging, and increasing number of consumers are opting for fiber-rich foods, thus strengthening the overall demand for prebiotics. The future growth trajectory of prebiotics hinges upon large-scale application of prebiotics, especially in nutraceutical products, thus making the food & beverage application as the fastest growing segment for prebiotics.
The prebiotic inulin-type is poised to lead the market. It is a soluble dietary fiber, which, when undergoing the intestinal fermentation process, greatly nourishes the healthy micro-flora (Bifidobacterium). Inulin is also found to improve taste, texture, and moisture in food products, thus providing an essential value addition. Galactooligosaccharide (GOS) is another popular prebiotics; it contains a mixture of substances produced from lactose. Its slightly sweet taste makes it an ideal sweetener for infant foods.
As far as the regions are concerned, the developed regions of North America and Europe represent the major portions of the market share, for both prebiotics and probiotics. Increasing consumer awareness and rising concern about improving digestive health are driving the markets in these regions. These regions have consistently witnessed the introduction of innovative functional products to cater to 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 the markets in this region are either yet to be penetrated or have experienced insufficient market penetration. Rising disposable income among the rapidly growing middle class in this region is allowing the latter to make discretionary purchases of more nutrient-rich and health-promoting foods, thus driving the market growth.
The global markets for prebiotics and probiotics are highly and moderately fragmented, respectively. The key players are increasingly investing on R&D for healthy product claims, launching new products that are adding variety to the markets, thus providing greater choice to the consumers, while expanding the players’ regional presence.
It is beyond doubt that both prebiotics and probiotics benefit human health. Market sentiments are strong, especially in the light of growing health-consciousness, observed globally. The well-established and documented safety profile of novel emerging prebiotics and probiotics is the first step in the direction of sustainable and organic growth of the market. The regulatory approvals, seen as a hurdle to this market, rely strongly on the robust safety data for different products, apart from the genuineness of different health claims.
Probiotics suffer from one major problem, namely, they are heat- and acid-labile; therefore, a relatively small number of living probiotic organisms reach the gut. However, the high-quality combination of prebiotics and probiotics is expected to confer, through symbiosis, enhanced health-benefits in a manner so that the body can effectively and wholly be utilized the full health potential of probiotics. This is achieved by making the latter available at the large intestine and especially, the colon. There is growing scientific evidence about the synergistic effect produced on gut and overall health if high-quality probiotics and prebiotics are taken together.