LAS VEGAS — Consumers increasingly are turning to beverages for probiotic and prebiotic benefits. Sales in the United States of soft drinks containing prebiotics and probiotics increased 210% from April 2022 to April 2023, according to the market researcher SPINS.

“Probiotic soda is having its moment right now,” said Brandon Casteel, vice president of partnerships at SPINS, in a SupplySide West presentation Oct. 26 in Las Vegas. “It’s up 210% from a year-over-year perspective. Crazy, right?”

Water products containing prebiotics and probiotics are on an upwards trajectory, too, with sales up 18% year-over-year. In all categories, companies are promoting products with multiple benefits, Mr. Casteel said, giving as an example a water product that has sleep as its main benefit.

Spins vice presidentBrandon Casteel, vice president of partnerships at SPINS. Photo: Sosland Publishing Co.

“This is only going to get more and more diversified” he said.

Refrigerated yogurt is still the probiotics category leader. Sales of refrigerated yogurts containing probiotic ingredients rose 10% year-over-year to $5 billion. Sales of refrigerated drinkable yogurts increased 17% to $570 million while kombucha sales dipped 1.7% to $650 million.

Mr. Casteel spoke in a session titled “A universe unfolding: Uncovering the mysteries of the microbiome and connection to health.” Marketing concerns and formulating for the elderly were other topics covered by speakers.

Hashtag danger

Social media posts, with hashtags and “likes” being prime examples, may draw attention from regulators, said Asa Waldstein, principal of the Supplement Advisory Group.

“The quickest way to turn around an otherwise compliant post into a non-compliant post is adding a hashtag,” he said in the same session about the microbiome, giving #inflammatoryboweldisease as an example.

“Liking” a post or adding a smiley face emoji may draw attention, too.

“You’ve turned that into labeling,” Mr. Waldstein said. “You’ve turned that into a piece of marketing.”

He said blogs and social media posts are forms of marketing, according to regulatory authorities. Warning letters from the US Food and Drug Administration often cite blogs posts.

Companies, when making claims on social media or any other promotional materials, need to be careful. “Supports leaky gut” might be considered a risky claim by the FDA even though leaky gut may be more of a condition than a disease, Mr. Waldstein said. “Helps support optimal gut permeability” might be safer although not as exciting marketing-wise.

Formulating for the elderly

Probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics all may slow the physical aging process, said Sandra Saville, director of education and communication for the International Probiotics Association. They may benefit digestion, cognition, sleep, bones and muscle. Formulators of such products should remember characteristics of consumers over age 60, Ms. Saville said. Their sense of smell and taste may have dulled. They may have difficulty swallowing, and gummies may stick to teeth.