Digestive health was one of the key areas driving the functional foods boom in the 1980s. Nevertheless, it is continuing to generate interest as probiotics move further into the mainstream and awareness of the role of fibers and prebiotics in gut health is also boosting new product development, according to Innova Market Insights. At the same time, interest in fermented foods has risen, not only because of their perceived digestive health benefits, but also because of their naturally processed image fitting well into current clean label and authenticity concerns.

Innova found that food and beverage launches tracked with a digestive/gut health claim rose 21% in 2018 in the Asia-Pacific region and featured across a diverse range of products. The baby and toddlers subcategory led in terms of market penetration, with digestive gut/health claims used for over 24% of 2018 launches, ahead of sports nutrition with 16.5%, dairy with 6.6%, and cereals with 3.7%.

Awareness of the role of fiber and prebiotics is now relatively well established, with Innova’s 2018 Trends Survey indicating that seven out of 10 Chinese consumers thought that digestive health was the main reason to consume fiber, with one in three claiming to have followed a fiber-rich diet over the previous year. While fiber claims continue to be popular in the traditional categories of bakery and cereals, they are also rising in less established areas including dairy and sports nutrition.

Probiotics are also a well-established functional ingredient for digestion, and continue to see rising levels of interest, with a 72% rise in food and drinks launches featuring probiotics in 2018. Dairy continues to be the key area for new product development, accounting for 67% of Asia-Pacific launches featuring probiotic ingredients in 2018, but activity is rising in other areas, with the confectionery and snacks categories showing potential.

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