Despite a number of adverse influences, including the economic downturn, consumer confusion over the range of products and ingredients available and their benefits, and difficulties over claims validation in Europe, interest in food and drinks carrying gut or digestive health claims appears to be continuing unabated, at least as far as food and drinks companies are concerned. Innova Market Insights tracked well over 4,000 launches globally marketed on a gut or digestive health platform in 2009, up from about 2,000 just five years previously.
It is a market that is, along with other parts of the functional foods market, very difficult to define, with rising awareness of foods traditionally linked with a healthy digestive system, particularly high-fiber foods such as bran and wholegrain bakery and cereal products, combining with the emergence of probiotic foods, most notably dairy products, to create a diverse but dynamic category. Additionally, many of the probiotic products launched in recent years, particularly dose-delivery dairy drinks, have focused on immune defense as much, if not more than, digestive health. With these difficulties in definition, market quantification is also fraught with problems, but estimates now tend to put the global market for gut health foods and drinks at over US $10 billion annually.
The emergence of new-style dairy products, most notably probiotic yogurts and dairy drinks has moved the market forward since their move out of Asia and into the mainstream Western markets in the 1990s. Indeed, the dairy sector, notably probiotic products, are now probably most closely associated with the gut health sector. Dairy products accounted for over 40% of the gut/digestive health launches recorded by Innova Market Insights in 2009, although this share was down slightly over 2008, reflecting the wider range of products appearing on the market. Baby food was the next most popular category for using gut health claims, ahead of bakery and cereal products.
Europe accounted for a leading one-third of the product launches on a gut or digestive health platform last year, just ahead of the United States on about 28%. Innova Market Insights noted a particularly rapid increase in U.S. product launches on a gut and digestive health platform, with totals more than tripling since 2005.