Danisco dairy plots new probiotic strains
research and development labs, but false claims are hampering the
market, business director Patrick Veau tells
Veau said probiotics were the "first priority" of R&D at Danisco Cultures and "that's where all the innovation teams are working" at top ingredients firms.
"There are quite a few strains that we are developing," he said, adding that the group was working on 12 bacterial strains, and four of them more seriously.
Dairy drinks have so far been the main driver of probiotic development in the dairy industry with Danone's so-called blockbuster brands Actimel and Activia helping to increase the public profile of "friendly bacteria".
Veau said the launch of cheese with probiotics in Spain was particularly interesting, emphasising that dairy drinks need not be the only segment to benefit.
Yet, he said health claims linked to probiotic strains were the key and that Danisco was doing a lot of work on this too.
He added his concern that there were "a lot of companies that are selling probiotic products without any proof of their health benefits".
A similar view was put forward at the recent Drinktec expo by Kaarle Leporanta, the marketing head of Finnish dairy group Valio, a leading probiotics innovator.
Leporanta called for more self-regulation in the industry so that the term probiotic was not used to promote so many products. "There have to be strain-specific studies on its health benefits," with scientific proof clearly labelled for consumers.
Valio was one of the first firms to develop a probiotic bacterial strain, called Lactobacillus GG, around 15 years ago. The group has licenced the strain for use by food producers in several different markets, and recently used it to launch a probiotic Emmental cheese in Belgium.
At the moment, "even if a product doesn't meet these criteria it may still be called probiotic on the market," said Leporanta. "This is a difficult task for the industry. If I was the European Union, I would do something to stop this."
Danisco's Veau he fully supported Valio's position on this matter.
Europe's probiotics market is set to more than triple in value over the next few years, according to Frost & Sullivan, to reach $137.9 million (€118.5m) in 2010.
Growth, however, has been a little patchy, with Scandinavian consumers showing far more willingness to accept probiotic foods.
"In Finland the average consumption of probiotic products is 6kg per capita each year. This is more than the whole yoghurt consumption per capita in the UK," said Leporanta.
Eastern Europe has also shown promise and one of Poland's leading dairy firms, Bakoma, has just launched a new range of probiotic yoghurts using Danisco's HOWARU cultures.
The move also signals further development of the branded ingredients trend, with the Bakoma range set to be co-branded as BACTIV - HOWARU.