Prebiotic companies are taking delivery forms to a whole new level.
The stage for prebiotics is growing. More consumers are aware of—and buying—prebiotic products to support their health goals, such as improved digestion and immunity. One market researcher, Quince Market Insights, predicts that globally, the prebiotics market will see 7% compound annual growth through 2030.1
While prebiotic ingredients typically come in the form of supplements, the versatility of ingredients like inulin and galactooligosaccharides makes prebiotics an ideal space for experimentation. Here are some of the exciting new territories prebiotics are branching into.
Prebiotics and Gummies: A Natural Match
Gummies pose several desirable traits for prebiotics. In fact, prebiotics are coming into their own as a category at the same time that gummies continue increasing their popularity, says Steven Riley, head of B2B and corporate marketing for Clasado Biosciences (Reading, UK).
Does this make prebiotic gummies a natural concept? “Combining these two strong growth categories lays out a very clear path for growth,” Riley says. “From both our perspective and the market trends, it’s clear that the strong upward momentum of prebiotics will only be further accelerated with the proliferation of prebiotic gummies. We’ve seen this acceleration with the launch of a prebiotic gummy with a global brand in the U.S. featuring [Clasado Biosciences’ branded] Bimuno GOS ingredient.”
The possibilities go beyond gummies, however. Prebiotics, Riley explains, can fit into a wide range of product applications, which is part of what makes the prebiotic niche an exciting arena. While the future of prebiotic delivery formats is difficult to predict, Riley believes that gummies will likely lead the delivery system pack—and that a strong wave of innovation is coming that will contribute to a more diverse prebiotics market.
Functional Food and Drinks
Formulators are increasingly finding more room to experiment with prebiotics in functional foods and beverages. “This trend opens up a lot of new options,” says Mike Bush, CEO of Prenexus Health (Gilbert, AZ). “Prebiotics are much different from digestive-support ingredients like probiotics; they aren’t live microorganisms, so there aren’t any formulation challenges. Prebiotics can go into any functional food or beverage a manufacturer wants to create, from shelf-stable beverages and fruit cups to microwaveable meals and even canned puppy food.”
Above all, consumers want their prebiotic supplements to be convenient, he says. While it’s easy to forget to take a pill or scoop a powder into a cereal, replacing a food or beverage that consumers already eat or drink every day with a prebiotic-fortified alternative makes a convenient switch.
Prebiotics are increasingly finding their way into the bakery and confectionery spaces, adds Silvi Siddhu, senior global marketing and technical sales manager, nutraceuticals, for Univar Solutions (Downers Grove, IL). Prebiotic functional foods like baked goods and chocolates are on the rise, giving consumers a sweet treat that also renders gut-health benefits.
“There are several factors that play a role in [consumer] acceptance of delivery formats,” Siddhu explains. “Convenience, dietary habits, and ease of implementation are important. Sensory experience also plays a role in acceptability of non-traditional delivery formats.”
Some prebiotics, like fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, and inulin, are especially well suited to functional food applications, Siddhu points out. These prebiotics are very versatile and can be incorporated in many different formulations. Moreover, Siddhu says manufacturers are increasingly modifying raw materials to make them more suitable for a broader range of delivery forms.
“Formulators are increasingly coming up with ways to maintain the in-process integrity of prebiotics,” Siddhu explains. “Non-thermal methods like high-pressure processing [are being used in] beverages,” for example.
Flexibility in Formulation
A significant driver behind the creativity in prebiotic delivery formats is the fact that prebiotics themselves are quite flexible in their formulation requirements. Prebiotics don’t require refrigeration, and many types of prebiotics require a low minimum effective dose, says Traci Kantowski, communications director for the Global Prebiotic Association (Spring, TX). Some prebiotics, Kantowski adds, can even be used to add or offset flavor.
“Prebiotics can be found in gummies as well as functional foods like cookies, chocolate, chips, and puffs, plus in beverages,” she explains. “The science is consistently evolving and offering opportunities for innovations in formulation with smaller doses that aren’t inulin or fructooligosaccharides. High dose used to be a barrier to format adoption, but now there are many options for lower-dose prebiotic and symbiotic formulas.”
Not all prebiotics are created equal, though, Kantowski says; some prebiotic ingredients offer more flexibility than others. Inulin requires large dosages, for instance, while resistant starch has heat stability limitations. She advises formulators to gain a thorough understanding of dosage levels when working with prebiotics, as dosage requirements vary significantly by prebiotic type.
The prebiotics market is undergoing a scientific revolution that is expanding formulators’ options for delivery systems. The gummy category’s continued strong performance makes prebiotic gummies a no-brainer, while functional foods and beverages can offer consumers a novel and convenient experience.
While dosage issues and ingredient stability challenges persist, formulators are finding new ways to overcome these hurdles. The future of prebiotic delivery systems will be limited only by the bounds of innovation and consumer preferences.