Demand increases for probiotic drinks

There’s an idiom that talks about listening to one’s gut as a way to ward off something that doesn’t feel right. After the brain, the gastrointestinal tract, or gut, is the nervous system’s second-biggest network of closely interconnected neurons that greatly impacts overall health and well-being, experts say. This has resulted in an increase of new and more natural approaches to digestive health with beverage-makers adding fiber, probiotics and “good bacteria” to their new products.

Consumers have become increasingly interested in consuming probiotics as a way to boost their gut health, driving interest in probiotic-containing functional beverages. Sales of refrigerated probiotic functional drinks and juices have increased 31.2 percent since 2016, with probiotic plant-based creamers and milks up 269.7 percent during that same period, according to data from Chicago-based SPINS.

Seventy percent of consumers associate probiotics with healthfulness, leading to widespread acceptance of this good bacteria, says Ilana Orlofsky, marketing manager at Niles, Ill.-based Imbibe.

“In terms of trends related to digestive health beverages, we’ve seen a lot of botanical flavors hit the marketplace, such as elderberry, lavender, lemongrass and turmeric. In terms of innovation, I know of one brand — Aspen Pure Probiotic (from New Age Beverages Corp.) that has developed a proprietary production process that allows for a nine-month shelf life without deterioration to more than 2 billion [colony forming units] (CFUs) of live probiotics,” Orlofsky says. “Shelf-stable probiotics or processing that yields shelf-stable probiotic [ready-to-drinks] (RTDs) will be a game changer, since beverages will not have to compete for the refrigerated aisle (or manage a refrigerated supply chain) like they currently do.”

Although probiotics have benefited from digestive health trends, fiber has been more challenged in the branding of its digestive benefits.

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