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A tech at Sensient BioNutrients works in the lab

Driven by heightened interest in gut health, immunity, and overall wellness, consumers are increasingly turning to probiotic supplements, propelling their steep ascent in the marketplace. Valued at $18.04 billion in 2022, the probiotic supplements market is projected to reach $51.84 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research. 

“There’s no question the probiotic market is growing globally, and this growth is only expected to continue,” says Gayathri Venkat, senior innovation scientist at the global biotechnology company Sensient BioNutrients. “A big driver of this is awareness of digestive health and the evidence-based wellness connection to different pathways within the human body.” 

As demand for probiotic supplements grows, so does the drive toward innovation. In the quest for ever-more-effective products, manufacturers are increasingly exploring novel microbial strains, Venkat says. But that’s not always so easy. “These new strains can be difficult to grow and require specific nutrients to help them survive and thrive,” she says.  

Below, Venkat discusses how she and her Sensient colleagues partner with manufacturers to craft nutrients tailored to feed even the most challenging new strains and help them bring products to market faster. 

We know probiotic supplement use is on the rise. Can you say more about why that is? 

Our understanding used to be that probiotics only aided in the health of the digestive system, but our knowledge has since expanded. Now we know, through scientific research, that probiotics are beneficial to immune health and the gut-brain axis.  

Why are novel strains important in probiotic supplement manufacturing? 

When probiotics first started to become more well-known, the most studied and applied were from two main genus of bacteria: Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. Within these, there were maybe a handful each of different strains and a short list of possible benefits. Now that we are years into probiotics research, and they’ve proven themselves and grown in popularity, innovation is more important than ever. That means finding novel strains, proving out their health benefits, and figuring out how to make them grow and survive. Novel strains mean differentiation in a growing, competitive probiotic market.  

What are the biggest challenges in working with some of these new strains?  

The thing about bacteria—especially ones that are not well known or studied—is knowing what they prefer as nutrient sources to help them both grow and stay alive post production. Novel strains are normally pretty “picky,” so it takes a lot of research and development to find what is optimal for them. I would say these are the biggest challenges.  

When you optimize probiotic strains what attributes are you looking to enhance? 

The main attributes you are seeking to optimize are growth and stability. The desire is to grow the largest population and then have them survive throughout the commercial process. The aim is, generally, “more cells to sell.” 

Talk about the difficulties your manufacturing partners face in bringing probiotic supplements to market on a short timeline. 

Not everyone has the resources, breadth of lab equipment, or depth of experience to put effort into the lab work required to get to market rapidly.  

How does Sensient help troubleshoot these challenges?  

We have seen numerous organisms that have been difficult to grow and stabilize, so our technical team is able to quickly suggest potential solutions. We leverage our scalable lab equipment and a broad portfolio of yeast extracts and vegetable peptones to form a customized solution to meet the challenges posed by any strain. Our laboratory is well-equipped, and this allows us to mimic production processes and peer into the needs of the organism using state-of-the-art liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry, among other techniques.  

What advice would you give to companies expanding into the arena of probiotic supplements? What are the best practices they should follow? 

If you are new to probiotics, I’d advise that you partner with a team that can act as an extension of your own. Engage with a supplier that has a proven track record and is knowledgeable about all the hurdles you may encounter, including regulatory hurdles. New and hard-to-grow strains continue to pique interest in the marketplace, so it’s crucial to ensure they receive the nutrients required to grow healthy and strong. 

Learn more about Sensient BioNutrients here.  

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