Chr. Hansen aims to fill gaps in kids functional foods space with probiotics

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Functional dairy products for older kids (middle school to high school age) is an area that has been overlooked, according to Chr. Hansen. ©GettyImages/sergeyryzhov
Functional dairy products for older kids (middle school to high school age) is an area that has been overlooked, according to Chr. Hansen. ©GettyImages/sergeyryzhov
Dairy products fortified with well-documented probiotic strains are a tougher find in functional food for kids, according to Chr. Hansen, and parents are looking for guidance when navigating this developing category.

“What we perceive is that parents are really overloaded with a lot of information out there,”​ Kristen Katzman, marketing manager of food cultures & enzymes at Chr. Hansen, told DairyReporter. 

“They are trying to take in a lot of this very conflicting information and process it in a way that makes sense for themselves and for their families.”

Chr. Hansen found through its own consumer research that 53% of parents familiar with probiotics believe their children get enough probiotics, but 81% want to see more children’s probiotics options on the market.

“Parents are looking for products that serve the needs of health for their children but still appeal to kids, and that’s a really tough dilemma,”​ Katzman said.

“Taste and nutrition are the key things when it comes to developing functional food products for kids.”

Carving out a kids space in dairy

US yogurt sales have taken a dip in recent years but are returning to growth, especially for brands communicating value-added functional benefits such as probiotics, according to Chr. Hansen.

Adria Gennuso-Fuchs, director of business development at Chr. Hansen, added, “We can all acknowledge that the dairy case is overloaded, particularly on the yogurt side.”

“Yogurt manufacturers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves and it seems that this idea of functionality and premium are driving consumers back to the yogurt aisle.”

Consumers are also more willing to spend a bit more on products they know to contain recognizable probiotic strains, Gennuso-Fuchs added.

Some of the gaps in the kids dairy category where probiotics could add a lift to sales are in drinkable yogurt, functional and whole-fat yogurt products, according to Katzman.

Value-added, functional milk where not many brands are leveraging probiotics in their formulations, Gennuso-Fuchs added.

“There’s opportunity for reduced-sugar flavored milk for kids using lactase to reduce the need for added sugar in those drinks. We also don’t see a lot of lactose-free products geared specifically toward children,”​ Gennuso-Fuchs said.

Brands should also be aiming beyond toddler and pre-school aged kids and look to appeal to an older age group in middle school and high school who are often overlooked, especially in the dairy aisle, Katzam noted.

Manufacturers should focus more on developing packaging that is the “right size for them with flavors that are interesting for that age group,”​ Katzman said.

ProKids concept

Chr. Hansen has developed a concept, ProKids, using its Lactobacillus rhamnosus​ (LLG) probiotic strain acquired from Valio in 2016.

“LGG has been shown to have a very positive effect on immune function across all age groups, but we found that it’s particularly effective in school age kids,”​ Gennuso-Fuchs said.

According to Gennuso-Fuchs, multiple studies have indicated that LGG can support upper respiratory tract health, reducing the duration of symptoms during an upper respiratory infection.

LGG functions well in drinkable yogurt products because of its smooth, milk-like texture, but the versatility of the strain means it can also be incorporated into spoonable yogurt and products like quark.

“We’re working to make the messaging simpler so marketers can market it in a simpler and understandable way for parents,”​ Katzman said.

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