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Following Your Gut: The Future of Digestive Health Products

When was the last time you picked up a probiotic yogurt or kombucha tea from the grocery store? If you are one of the four million Americans who say they use probiotics and/or prebiotics, probably pretty recently. With the growing belief that the gut has health effects far beyond digestion, including boosts to immune, brain and cardiovascular health, health-conscious consumers are now spending more than ever on a variety of different products that support digestive health.

While the U.S. OTC market has struggled to find growth in recent years, digestive health brands are seeing rapid growth, by double digits year over year in the recent past. Even marketers of more traditional OTC brands need to understand the impact of these products on their businesses.

Americans are eating up all the convenient and proactive ways they can take wellness into their own hands, including improving their gut health. According to a paper by IRI and Kline, manufacturers’ sales of digestive health products in the United States were approximately $1.32 billion in 2017, up 12.4% from $1.17 billion in 2016. This includes digestive health products, such as probiotics, probiotic drinks and digestive enzymes, but does not include traditional over-the-counter (OTC) digestive health remedies, such as antacids or laxatives.

As more and more research studies confirm connections between gut health and overall health, consumers are increasingly willing to pay to sustain and improve their health now, rather than pay to treat illnesses later.

IRI point-of-sale and OTC market data has revealed the following key findings:

  • Consumer awareness of digestive health issues is largely driven by new research studies mentioned in the media and large-scale advertising campaigns.
  • Probiotics are the largest category in the total digestive health market, with a market share of 82%, followed by probiotic beverages at 12.5% and digestive enzymes at 6%.
  • Probiotic beverages are growing in popularity, as the digestive health market share grew 30% from 2016 to 2017. The market share of probiotic supplements grew 10.8%.
  • The market for digestive health products is expected to record almost 10% growth in 2018. 
  • As the market matures, probiotic supplements are expected to post more moderate gains over the next few years.
  • The category will face competition from functional foods and consumers’ desire to obtain nutrients directly from foods like yogurt, kimchi and whole foods.

The next big trend to watch is the microbiome. The gut microbiome—an ecosystem of organisms, such as bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and protozoans that live in each person’s gut—is the most recent topic to attract attention in digestive health research. Research suggests that the microbiome is linked to mood, brain disorders, athleticism, immune function, inflammation, allergies, weight and metabolism. 

IRI and Kline predict that CPG and OTC products focusing on the gut microbiome will be the next top sellers in digestive health. There is already an emerging market for prebiotic and probiotic products that claim to help the gut microbiome, and this will continue to grow if more research is released that demonstrates positive impacts.

Looking into the future, there’s no doubt that the rise of probiotics and supplements will continue to grow as long as there are health-conscious consumers (with many millennials laser-focused on health and wellness, this trend will no doubt continue). This gives CPG and OTC manufacturers and retailers a unique opportunity to tap into this expanding market with products that focus on improving gut health and avoid or improve chronic diseases or their symptoms.

Read more about the market for digestive health in the IRI/Kline paper, “Digestive Health Products Far Outpacing OTC Market Growth: Probiotics Lead the Way,” or contact me at Lisa.Buono@IRIworldwide.com.

 

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