“The EU probiotic claim ban continues to constrain the pro/prebiotic drinking yoghurt market in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands and the UK,” the analyst said.
In these countries the cost was more than €500m since 2012 andstands to lose a further €1bn to 2020 “in retail value as result of the ban of probiotic claims.”
“As such, in 2014 alone the pro/prebiotic drinking yoghurt market could have potentially grown by €120 million (equal to a rise of 17% in constant value terms) in the six negatively affected countries, whilst the retail sales actually contracted by €44m (to €730m).”
“Still, the impact in 2014 was less severe than a year earlier, when an estimated €240m off retail sales was lost.”
Mintel figures show similar numbers of pre- and probiotic products on-market despite the ban.
President of the HealthyMarketingTeam Peter Wennstrom agreed the ban was constraining and urged the sector “to get back to basics in marketing efforts because the story of healthy bacteria is an ancient, natural and powerful one.”
He predicted that coupled with this, stronger science would lead to increasing use of probiotics in medical channels, which would have a run-on effect across the market.
Barry Smith, chairman of UK firm Symprove that makes prebiotic products said consumers still struggled to make the link between pre- and probiotics and their immune systems.
“I would go as far as to say that after 30 years of trying to get this message across, our main drive for the last 15 years has been to try and prove that pre- and probiotic technology can have a beneficial effect in specific indications. The public want resolution they do not understand maintenance.”
“I would say 95% of the public do not know what a prebiotic is and therefore they do not understand.”
"...consumers should be given better access to recent scientific results..."
However Thomas Schmidt, marketing director at inulin oligofructose supplier Beneo, pointed to Health Focus International research that showed high levels of more than 80% of people in countries like Russia and Thailand and Mexico agreed there was a link between gut health and immunity.
“Even more, consumers are actively looking for natural solutions that help them to follow a holistic approach of healthy eating and lifestyle. This is why they are looking for food and beverage products helping the entire family to enhance immunity incl. baby food, beverages and more. However, the market for the time being is still set by pharmaceutical products, vitamins and supplements,” said Schmidt.
“Particularly in Europe consumers should be given better access to recent scientific results on digestive health and immunity as well as to food products in the shelves. Both would help people to follow the increasingly desired approach for a healthy lifestyle.”
Smith said the effect of the claims ban had been a “change of focus towards medical claims, for those that are seriously focused on health.”
He added “the rules aren’t really policed or enforced, so there is still a huge amount of over-claiming on commercial websites, for example.”
The category was being driven by the “very well educated and very unwell who are disillusioned with the medical advice they receive and the system’s reliance on drugs.”
“The sector is bursting at the seams for start-up disruption and specialised marketing.”
In the EU the terms prebiotic and probiotic are typically deemed unauthorised implied health claims as, despite more than 300 applications. However Beneo's inulin recently won a positive opinion for stool health.