Bio-Cat is bullish on spore-forming probiotics: Natural Products Expo West report


At Expo West, microbial and enzyme ingredients supplier Bio-Cat explained why it’s heavily focused on spore-forming probiotics.

Photo © Bagi

Photo © Bagi

Spore-forming probiotics are in high demand because they offer formulating advantages on top of their health benefits. Due to their naturally protective coatings, many spore formers are more durable than non-spore-forming probiotics, especially during food and beverage manufacturing. At March’s Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, CA, microbial and enzyme ingredients supplier Bio-Cat (Troy, VA) explained why spore formers have become such a big part of its business.

Bio-Cat is “extremely bullish on not only continued growth in probiotics but on the segment which are spores, specifically, because of their inherent benefits,” said Mark Walin, senior vice president of business development and marketing, at Expo West. He added: “We believe we’re not only in the right overall space of probiotics, we believe that we’re in the right segment, which is the spore-forming segment.”

Research is active within the rich landscape of spore-forming probiotic strains. A number of spore-forming strains are already commercialized, but there are many more in development. Each spore-forming strain offers its own benefits. Even if two strains come from the same bacterial species—say, Bacillus subtilis—“the specific strains could be different in terms of their heat tolerance and the pH ranges at which they optimally provide their benefit,” Walin explained. He said that even within Bio-Cat’s own portfolio of spore formers, there are differences in how each strain performs. “They vary,” he said. Bio-Cat will recommend the right strain depending on a customer’s needs.

“We’ve sequenced and characterized thousands of strains,” Walin said. “We understand the nuances between strains.”

For instance, he continued, “One of the inherent virtues of many of the spore formers is the metabolites and compounds they can secrete, including enzymes.” Different strains produce different enzymes or different levels of enzymes.

One example is Bio-Cat’s newly launched spore former, OptiBiome BS50 (Bacillus subtilis BS50). A recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial1 not only showed the strain’s positive benefits for gastrointestinal symptoms in 76 healthy adults, but it led Bio-Cat to begin exploring how OptiBiome BS50 can aid protein digestion. “This particular strain produces protease,” Walin said, “and protease can accelerate and improve the bioavailability of protein.”

“This is tremendous,” he continued. “We have a probiotic that may be used to assist and facilitate protein digestion.”

On top of those digestive-health and protein-digestion benefits, BS50 provides the manufacturing advantages that many spore formers do. “One of the things that’s phenomenal about this strain is its flexibility for different formats,” Walin said, such as “its heat tolerance during the manufacturing process and its survivability when exposed to oxygen.”

“So many probiotics are extremely fragile,” he added. “They’re essentially destroyed in the manufacturing process, heat, or moisture.” OptiBiome BS50, he said, has been shown to survive shelf life even after a package is opened and the product has been exposed to air or relative humidity. “And that’s not true of many of the probiotics on the market,” he said.

“So,” he continued, “you can put OptiBiome BS50 into a gummy or a gelatin form. You can put it into a nutrition bar where there’s heat, pressure, and moisture applied, within certain tolerances that you would never be able to get through with some of the other strains that are in the marketplace.”

Bio-Cat is moving OptiBiome BS50 full-steam ahead in the market. It secured an independent conclusion of Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for the ingredient’s use in food and beverages following the publication of a manuscript last year demonstrating OptiBiome BS50’s safety.2 Walin said the company is now also pursuing an FDA GRAS conclusion.

Spore formers like OptiBiome BS50 can also be combined with Bio-Cat’s other specialty, enzyme ingredients. The two can complement each other in formulation, Walin said.

In formulation, each would offer different benefits. Enzymes, for instance, generally work more quickly than probiotics, and consumers feel their effects faster. “Enzymes work fast. They work in the gastric phase of digestion,” Walin explained. By contrast, he said, probiotics “work later in the digestive system.”

“We think there’s absolutely a ‘baton hand-off,’” he said. “It’s almost like you have a sprinter handing the baton off to a distance runner. It’s the same race, the same journey, and the same substrate, but that substrate is changing because it’s being hydrolyzed either by the acid in the stomach or by the enzymes in the stomach that either your body is producing or a supplement is delivering. Then it moves to the intestinal phase where the pH goes up and the environment is far more alkaline. And now probiotics often thrive in that environment—and, in the case of spore formers, they can continue the work. In addition, those spore formers are also now producing enzymes, further helping to enhance absorption and bioavailability.”

“Combination formulations are something we’re working hard on, to find the right combinations,” he concluded. “We believe we’re uniquely positioned to deliver innovation and solutions in that area.”


  1. Garvey, S.M.; Mah, E.; Blonquist, T.M.; Kaden, V.N.; Spears, J.L. The Probiotic Bacillus subtilis BS50 Decreases Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Healthy Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Gut Microbes. 2022, 14 (1), 2122668. DOI: 10.1080/19490976.2022.2122668
  2. Brutscher L.M.; Borgmeier, C.; Garvey, S.M.; Spears, J.L. Preclinical Safety Assessment of Bacillus subtilis BS50 for Probiotic and Food Applications. Microorganisms. 2022, 10 (5): 1038. DOI: 10.3390/microorganisms10051038
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