Probiotic usage increased following pandemic, says recent consumer survey

October 23, 2020
Sebastian Krawiec

DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences, in collaboration with the Natural Marketing Institute recently surveyed U.S., Italian, and Chinese consumers to determine how attitudes have changed about probiotics since the COVID-19 outbreak.

DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences (Wilmington, DE), in collaboration with the Natural Marketing Institute recently surveyed U.S., Italian, and Chinese consumers to determine how attitudes have changed about probiotics since the COVID-19 outbreak. Results showed that probiotic usage increased by 66% in the U.S. from 15% of total users to 25% of total users compared to six months prior. Of these users, the number of U.S. consumers who used probiotics daily or more often increased from 37% to 61% compared to six months prior. Italian consumers saw a 188% increase in usage and an 83% increase in weekly compliance, and Chinese consumers saw a 108% increase in usage compared to six months prior. In the long term, it was found that both U.S. and Italian consumer expected to use probiotics more in the ensuing six months compared to baseline.

“Consumers understand immune health is directly linked to gut health. Therefore, they are seeking probiotics to support immune health even if those probiotics do not have immune health claims,” explains Jennifer Montgomery, AMER Marketing Lead- Probiotics for DuPont Nutrition and Biosciences to Nutritional Outlook. “While it’s great that consumers have this knowledge, it’s also important for consumers to understand that not all strains and doses have clinically proven data to support immune health.”

Of course, the kind of products consumers seek varies by situation. Consumers feeling acute symptoms will purchase differently from those just seeking daily management, says Montgomery. “Symptomatic consumers prefer stand-alone probiotics while wellness consumers prefer multi-nutrient formulas,” she says. “Symptomatic consumers are increasingly looking for specific strains with clinical data to support the efficacy of their chosen strain. Wellness consumers prefer a product with more ‘wellness value’ and a better consumption experience. They prefer their probiotics in non-capsule formats like gummies and foods and beverages.”

More convenient delivery formats for probiotics are both desirable for consumers and a major opportunity for manufacturers, if they have the right ingredients to achieve a palatable and efficacious finished product. “Formulating a probiotic juice or beverage can be challenging depending on factors such as the pH and temperature to which the beverage is heated during processing,” says Montgomery. “To overcome these challenges DuPont has a global network of formulation experts who can leverage their combined knowledge to ensure the probiotics will survive throughout the duration of the shelf-life of the beverage. Additionally, DuPont sells several of its Signature Strains under the HOWARU brand in a frozen pellet format which ensures faster and more even dispersion in liquid products.”

While many consumers are self-educated about probiotics and other immune supporting ingredients, the growing acceptance of probiotics among healthcare practitioners (HCPs) can also account for greater usage and compliance of probiotics. “There is growing interest in how the microbiota composition and function can impact multiple health areas including immune health, digestive health, vaginal health, and the gut-brain axis,” says Montgomery. “Increasingly, physicians are seeing probiotics as a tool in their bags when patients present with certain complaints, symptoms, or are seeking to support their immune or gut health. Due to their excellent safety profile, relative cost, and clinical data, HCPs are often recommending probiotics before starting a pharmaceutical agent.”

Efficacy is an important factor here because doctors will only be comfortable recommending products that work. As the science on various probiotic strains grows, doctors will become more specific about what they recommend, explains Montgomery. “HCPs are becoming savvier on probiotic science and beginning to recognize the importance of selecting the right strain vs. generically telling patients to buy a probiotic,” she states.