Gut reaction: Seizing new opportunities in the probiotic market


Digestive health is big business. By using hardy, spore-forming probiotic strains, manufacturers of everything from coffee to freezer pops now have the opportunity to meet growing demand, writes John Quilter, VP and General Manager, ProActive Health, Kerry

Interest in digestive health is growing all the time, with the number of Google searches for “gut health” rising by 669% between 2014 and 2019. Given that digestive health problems are so widespread, such figures are unsurprising.

Across the world, 15% of consumers say they are unsatisfied with their current digestive health situation, whereas research shows that around one in four American consumers suffer digestive health issues every day.1,2

GanedenBC30, the science-backed probiotic brand powered by Kerry, recently surveyed more than 11,000 health-conscious consumers in 14 countries.3 The research shows that, globally, the fourth most popular reason for purchasing healthy lifestyle products is an ability to promote good digestive health.

Probiotics are a hugely important part of the digestive health market and consumers understand their benefits. As our research showed, there is high awareness of their ability to improve gut health by maintaining a balance of good and bad bacteria.

In the UK, for example, 72% of consumers who were aware of cultures — the term sometimes used to describe probiotics in the EU — were able to correctly identify their benefits for digestive health. Among American consumers with an awareness of probiotics, 79% recognised that they provide digestive health benefits.3

In addition, 33% of US respondents said they had used products containing probiotics in the last six months — and that figure appears set to grow substantially in the coming years.4 In 2018, the global probiotics market was estimated to be worth $49.4 billion; by 2023, it is projected to reach $69.3 billion, growing at a CAGR of 7%.4

The opportunities for manufacturers are huge, particularly so when it comes to food and drink. A study completed in 2018, for example, showed that 85% of consumers want to use food as a vehicle for digestive health benefits, whereas 57% want to use beverages. By contrast, only 23% said they wanted to use pills or tablets.5

Functional food and beverage products collectively represent by far the biggest segment of the digestive health market, standing at around $40 billion.

Beyond dairy

As part of our proprietary research, we also asked consumers whether they would be interested in purchasing products in specific categories if they featured ingredients that promoted digestive health. With probiotics traditionally associated with refrigerated dairy products, it is perhaps unsurprising that yoghurt and yoghurt-based drinks emerged as the most popular option at 48%.

Yet, significant numbers also expressed an interest in less traditional categories. Fruit and vegetable juices were of interest to 39% of respondents, followed by cereal, granola and breakfast bars (35%) and snacks (33%).3

There are compelling reasons to add probiotics to these products. Research found that 44% of consumers would seek out products with a digestive health positioning on a shopping trip, whereas 36% would be willing to pay a premium for food and drink products with a digestive health positioning.1

Nonetheless, incorporating probiotics into everyday foods and beverages can be difficult. Most strains on the market, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, are vegetative cells, which are very fragile and can be damaged by manufacturing processes. They generally need to be refrigerated to survive and are also vulnerable during transit to the gastrointestinal tract.

These challenges can be overcome through the use of spore-forming probiotics — strains such as GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086) are extremely stable and far more resistant to extremes of heat, cold, pH and pressure.

Just as plant seeds will not germinate until the seasonal temperatures are right, the spores in GanedenBC30 do not grow until they reach the intestines, where the conditions are perfect. That means it is able to survive almost any manufacturing process, including baking, boiling and freezing.

As such, it is not limited to traditional categories such as yoghurt and milk products. It can be incorporated into anything from ice cream and freezer pops to pizza and peanut butter without any loss of functionality.

Now and the future

GanedenBC30 can already be found in more than 1000 foods, beverages and companion animal products around the world, but it is not merely versatile. By definition, probiotics must consist of live microbes in the diet, delivered live to the digestive tract in efficacious quantities and conferring a health benefit to the consumer.

Even so, there can be significant differences in levels of performance in terms of health benefits and efficacy. The benefits of GanedenBC30 are substantiated by more than 25 peer-reviewed published papers, with the research showing that it supports digestive health when consumed daily … as well as boosting immune function.6–9

These qualities have helped to generate significant brand loyalty. In the UK, for example, 53% of those responding to our consumer survey said they would definitely or probably buy a product with GanedenBC30 and 41% said they would switch to a different brand if their usual brand was not available with GanedenBC30.

And, in China, 95% would definitely or probably buy a product with GanedenBC30 and 73% would switch, whereas countries including India and Mexico also saw extremely high percentages on both counts.

Amid soaring interest in gut health solutions, the qualities offered by GanedenBC30 present manufacturers of an increasingly wide range of food and drink products with the opportunity to meet growing consumer demand.


  3. Kerry Global Consumer Survey, Digestive and Immune Health (2019).
  6. D.S. Kalman, et al., “A Prospective, Randomized, Double–Blind, Placebo–Controlled Parallel–Group Dual Site Trial to Evaluate the Effects of a Bacillus coagulans–Based Product on Functional Intestinal Gas Symptoms,” BMC Gastroenterology 9, 85. doi: 10.1186/1471-230X-9-85 (2009).
  7. A.J.H. Maathuis, D. Keller and S. Farmer, “Survival and Metabolic Activity of the GanedenBC30 Strain of Bacillus coagulans in a Dynamic In Vitro Model of the Stomach and Small Intestine,” Beneficial Microbes 1, 31–36 (2010).
  8. E.P. Nyangale, et al., “Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086 Modulates Faecalibacterium prausnitzii in Older Men and Women,” The Journal of Nutrition 145(7), 1446–1452 (2015).
  9. K.F. Benson, et al., “Probiotic Metabolites from Bacillus coagulans GanedenBC30 Support Maturation of Antigen-Presenting Cells In Vitro,” World Journal of Gastroenterology 18(16), 1875–1883 (2012).