When it comes to attention-grabbing trends, prebiotics and probiotics are near the head of the class in the food and beverage industry, highlighted by the fact that since the beginning of August, Food Business News has published 16 stories that mention probiotics. Refrigerated yogurt, where products touting probiotics are fast approaching $1 billion in sales, according to data from The Nielsen Co., New York, lead the pack, but fruit drinks, cheese and health bars are making their marks as well.
Total dollar sales of probiotic food and beverages totaled $1,508,901,802 in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9, up 37% from the same period a year earlier and up 168% from five years ago, according to Nielsen. On a unit volume basis, sales in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9 were up 21% from a year ago and up 113% from five years ago. In several cases, categories where no sales were tracked during 2007 made significant strides during 2008. Powdered soft drinks featuring probiotics, for instance, generated sales of $3,744,283 in the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9, while fresh bread sales totaled $2,041,226 and granola and yogurt bars came in at $364,711.
Food and beverage companies increasingly have recognized the potential of probiotics. This recognition has played out in a growing number of collaborative efforts between the food and beverage industry and probiotic strain makers.
In mid-October, Nellson Nutraceutical, L.L.C., a Los Angeles-based provider of nutraceutical co-manufactured bar and powder products, reached an agreement with Cleveland-based Ganeden to incorporate its probiotics strains into its products.
The companies said the agreement underscores their commitment "to developing innovative probiotic fortified food and beverage products designed to improve quality of life and provide health and wellness benefits to consumers."
Earlier in the month, San Francisco-based Attune Foods, Inc. announced it would be adding two Danisco probiotic strains to its Attune Probiotic Wellness bars. The strains — Howaru Dophilus and Howaru Bifido — are expected to boost the bars’ digestive health and immunity benefits.
"The addition of the Howaru strains, with the strong science behind them, helps us to best achieve our goals of providing the most efficacious products available on the market," said Rob Hurlbut, chief executive officer of Attune Foods.
A different kind of partnership was formed between MyHealthGate, Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill. MyHealthGate, which is a web community located at www.myhealthgate.com, is offering free samples of LiveActive Chewy Granola Bars from Kraft to members of its site as part of an effort to raise awareness for prebiotics and probiotics.
"We were excited to work with LiveActive to help raise awareness for digestive health," said Hooman Abrishami, president of MyHealthGate, Inc. "Our site members and visitors are keenly interested in nutritious foods, and probiotics are a hot new offering."
Another company expanding the probiotics category is Cascade Fresh, Seattle. Cascade, which identifies itself as the largest family-owned yogurt maker for natural and specialty markets, in mid-October launched Activ8 Probiotic Crunch bars. The product introduction marks a shift for the company, whose principal products are yogurt, smoothies and sour cream. While the bars will continue to be marketed in the dairy aisle, Cascade hopes to deliver probiotics in a more convenient platform and to a broader audience — especially those consumers who are sensitive to dairy products.
According to Cascade, the bars are organic, sweetened with agave and 100% gluten- and dairy-free. In addition, each bar contains 5.55 billion colony forming units of probiotics, a total Cascade claims is more than what is in 12 cups of typical yogurt and more than any other bar on the market.
NextFoods also has taken probiotics beyond yogurt with its launch of GoodBelly probiotic fruit drinks, the first fruit-based, dairy-free, soy-free, wheat-free and vegan probiotic products in the market. The fruit drinks contain Lp299v, which NextFoods said has been clinically tested and proven for 15 years to improve overall digestive regularity and promote immunity.