HORSHOLM, DENMARK — Consumer awareness around probiotics is growing alongside misconceptions and a desire to learn more about gut health, according to a new report from Chr. Hansen.
The global bioscience company surveyed approximately 16,000 consumers in 16 countries and found more than half have received a recommendation to consume probiotics from someone they trust. Three-quarters of respondents reported being somewhat or very familiar with probiotics, and 48% said they consume probiotics daily or almost daily. Improving intestinal transit, balancing intestinal flora, improving the immune system and preventing gastrointestinal disorders were among the top drivers of probiotic consumption, along with supporting overall well-being.
Despite high awareness and usage, the survey found a range of misconceptions about probiotics. Nearly half (47%) of respondents incorrectly believed all dairy yogurts contain probiotics. Three-quarters of consumers incorrectly thought “live active cultures” in dairy yogurt was just another way of saying it contains probiotics.
Seven in 10 consumers said they would like to learn more about probiotics, with general health benefits (59%), digestive health benefits (58%) and immune health benefits (57%) emerging as top areas of focus. Half of consumers said they would like to learn about the difference between live bacteria and probiotic bacteria, and roughly the same amount said they would like to learn about the difference between fermented foods with and without probiotics. Forty-two percent said they would like to learn how to understand the label of a product containing probiotics.
“The results of our survey highlight the importance of consumer education and encourage continuing efforts to work with the industry to provide this education,” said Lars Bredmose, senior director of commercial development in food cultures and enzymes at Chr. Hansen. “We have worked to develop probiotic strain logos and trademarks that our customers may use to strengthen the credibility of their food with the world’s most-documented probiotics.”
The survey also highlighted consumption patterns around probiotics. Dairy foods were the preferred way of consuming probiotics for 52% of respondents, but most consumers said they would be interested in trying other products if they were available. Fruit and vegetable juices and plant-based fermented foods were among the key areas of interest.
While most consumers eat products with probiotics during breakfast, opportunities exist to expand into new occasions, too. Daily consumers were more likely to seek products for dinner and lunch, while intermittent and infrequent consumers were more likely to seek out snack foods featuring probiotics.
Flavor and trust were the top drivers that motivated consumers to choose and stay with a particular brand or product. Price was another factor, with 36% of respondents citing acceptable price as a primary driver.