Ingredient Hot List: Gut Health

April 11, 2022
Ingredients Innovation

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Consumers are digesting the fact that gut health is inextricably linked to well-being. While the notion of “You are what you eat” is hardly new, the collectively deeper dive into the importance of the gastrointestinal tract and how to properly maintain it is evident in the spate of products on the marketplace that tout better digestive health. For some people, it’s about weight loss. For others, maintaining or improving their gut bacteria is a step in preventing disease and building up immunity. Whatever is driving their interest in products that keep the gut healthy and happy, you can deliver on it with offerings that fit their lifestyle and their taste. Read on to learn about the ways in which the human body’s littlest organisms are a big deal.

It’s All Linked

Consumers today are becoming even more aware of the direct connection between the digestive system and human health.

A Few Facts About Our Gut Health:

  • The gut is where you digest and absorb nutrients from food.
  • A healthy gut with healthy bacteria can protect against infections, pathogens and potentially some types of cancers
  • This area of the body is connected to the immune system and therefore can help enhance or reduce immunity.
  • Nerves and hormones link the gut to the brain, suggesting relationships with mental health and conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Home Sweet Biome

The term “microbiome” has been cropping up more in recent years, and it refers to the ecosystems within the human body where bacteria, virus and fungi live. In the digestive system, many of these microorganisms cluster inside the large intestine.

Gut Feelings

  • Searches on Google for “gut health” are up by 83%, researchers from the BUPA health insurance company noted.
  • Meanwhile, Tastewise reported that searches for postbiotics rose more than 2,000% over the past two years.
  • 57% of consumers worldwide plan to improve their digestive health, according to a survey by FMCG Gurus.

Favorite Flavors & Ingredient Types

For North America New Product Introductions in the Past Three Years with Functional – Digestive and Prebiotic; Probiotic claims

  • Vanilla/ Vanilla Bourbon/ Vanilla Madagascar
  • Strawberry
  • Chocolate
  • Berry
  • Blueberry
  • Herbs/Herbal
  • Turmeric/Curcuma
  • Ginger

Fastest Growing Flavors

For North America New Product Introductions with Functional – Digestive, Prebiotic and Probiotic claims for Q1 2021 vs Q1 2022

  • Chocolate
  • Orange/Sweet Orange
  • Oat
  • Mango
  • Banana

Breaking It Down

  • Probiotics are microorganisms that boost good bacteria in the gut and can be consumed via certain foods, beverages and supplements.
  • Prebiotics found in food are considered “fuel” for healthy bacteria grow and thrive in the gut. Ingredients and foods rich in fiber can fall into this category.
  • Postbiotics are the waste left behind once probiotics and prebiotics are absorbed. Vitamins B and K, amino acids and short-chain fatty acids are types of postbiotics. In addition to functional purposes for the digestive tract, many of these ingredients impart other characteristics in product development – including flavor.

Consumer Interest & Common Ingredients

Keeping Tract

Today, items purporting to help with gut health are appealing to a cross-section of the food and beverage marketplace.

  • 57% of U.S. adults try to eat foods that encourage a healthy gut, Mintel reports.
  • 51% of consumers aged 18 to 24 are interested in multifunctional products that enhance digestive health as well as other aspects of health and wellness according to Mintel.
  • Gut Health & Gen Z – Mintel notes that younger Gen Z consumers are more likely to experience digestive issues due to stress and a lack of sleep, opening the door for digestive brands to incorporate ingredients that facilitate relaxation.

Fermenting Change

As demand has come from many sides in the marketplace, some foods and ingredients have emerged as early winners in the gut health space. For instance, 10 or 15 years ago, the word “kombucha” wouldn’t necessarily roll off the tongue or be as familiar as it is today with a wide swath of consumers. Other ingredients that have become associated with digestive health claims in recent years include fermented products like kimchi, kefir, miso, sauerkraut and other substances found in nature, such as inulin-rich chicory root.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Not quite an artichoke as most consumers know them, the Jerusalem artichoke is part of the sunflower plant and is considered a root vegetable that resembles a ginger root. The plants are available year-round in the U.S. Also known as a sunchoke, this plant-based food is high in the prebiotic of inulin, which has been shown to support digestive health. Taste-wise, they have some similarities with potatoes and artichoke hearts.

Market and Consumer Sentiment

  • The top importer of Jerusalem artichokes in 2020 was the U.S., with $18.8 million in import value, according to data from Tridge.
  • The annual growth rate of Jerusalem artichokes in the food market was recently estimated at 36.16%, according to Tastewise.

Products of Note

Green Goodness 100% Fruit Juice Smoothie is made with 100% kiwi, apple, and mango fruit juice from concentrate and other added ingredients, including Jerusalem artichoke. The product is free from added sugar.

DeBoles Organic Spinach Fettuccine is described as a combination of spinach, the subtle nutty taste of Jerusalem artichoke inulin and durum wheat semolina. This USDA Organic certified pasta is low in fat and free from cholesterol and GMO.

27% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Mamma Chia Strawberry Lemonade Chia Prebiotic Squeeze Snack is made with organic chia seeds infused with fruits and fiber-rich prebiotics including Organic Jerusalem artichoke powder to create a gut-friendly, on-the-go snack that supports digestive health.

25% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Simple Truth Free From Multi-Flora Probiotic Dietary Supplement is claimed to support digestive health, which is closely tied to the immune system. The vegetarian and gluten-free product contains 16 billion active cells including five well-researched strains of beneficial bacteria – including some sourced from Jerusalem artichokes.

Natto

Natto is a considered a probiotic. It’s a type of fermented soy, made from steamed soybeans and a starter culture and is commonly consumed in Japan because it’s healthy, affordable and easy to prepare and use. In addition to its stringy texture and appearance, natto does have a strong smell, which why it’s often paired with other ingredients like soy sauce and mustard in dishes. In the U.S., natto is starting to show up in restaurant menus and in product portfolios.

Market and Consumer Sentiment

  • The market value for natto is expected to grow by $1.39 billion globally with a CAGR of 8.46% from now through 2025, according to Technavio.
  • The American Soybean Association and the U.S. Soybean Export Council have spotlighted natto made with U.S. soy as a way to encourage the use of domestically produced soy in a dish that’s gaining new interest in this country.
  • In Hawaii, July 10 has been designated Natto Day. The fermented beans are popular in Honolulu, and many restaurants there feature it on the menu in dishes like Miso Eggplant with Seafood Natto and Cheesy Natto Tapenade.

Products of Note

New York Natto Organic is a Japanese probiotic superfood made fresh in New York City. The Certified Organic product is available in an 8-ounce jar.

Small Bean Organic Natto is described as probiotic fermented Certified Organic soybeans and is made in Vermont.

Doctor’s Best Nattokinase is a supplement made with the nattokinase enzyme derived from natto. According to the company, during the natto production process, non-GMO soybeans are boiled and fermented with friendly Bacillus subtilis bacteria producing nattokinase.

Peyoung Garlic & Natto Chow Mein Noodles is a product from Japan. This product comprises instant cup noodles flavoured with strong garlic and aromatic fermented soybeans and can be prepared in hot water in three minutes.

Jicama

Jicama has been around for a while in produce departments and as an ingredient in salads and other dishes. But it’s getting a new look lately for its prebiotic fiber content, as a way to restore healthy bacteria in the gut. A root vegetable that’s typically grown in Mexico and Latin American countries, jicama looks like an apple but doesn’t taste as sweet -it’s more like a mix between an apple, potato and pear. Its mild taste and starchy composition makes it a good flavor companion and complement.

Market and Consumer Sentiment

  • “Jicama is a healthy and delicious root vegetable everyone should know about…Not only does jicama contain high levels of potassium and vitamin C, but it also contains inulin—the desirable dietary fiber and prebiotic that makes the carbohydrates in jicama highly digestible,” MarthaStewart.com
  • The global jicama market is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 7% through this year, according to Technavio. The Americas are the largest market for jicama.

Products of Note

Sprouts Farmers Market Watermelon Jicama Salsa is now available. The vegan product is described as a combination of tomatoes, onions watermelon and crunchy jicama, can be used as an easy five-layer dip, layer beans, guacamole, sprouts watermelon salsa, sour cream and top with cheese.

33% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

JicaChips Sea Salted Baked Jicama Chips are described as an ancient Mexican root vegetable that tastes like a cross between an apple and potato and is made with olive oil. It is a natural source of prebiotic fiber, which nourishes the good bacteria in the digestive system and promotes gut health.

36% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Melissa’s Jicama Wraps are described as thin jicama slices. This ready-to-eat product is said to be a perfect tortilla replacement.

28% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Jica Jicama Tortillas are ready-to-eat taco shells made with thin jicama slices. The microwavable product is said to be crunchy and refreshing and made with 100% fresh jicama. It is a natural source of prebiotic fiber, which nourishes the good bacteria in the digestive system and promotes gut health.

29% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is inner bark from cinnamon trees, including cassia cinnamon and Ceylon cinnamon. Long a beloved spice, cinnamon has been shown to offer a variety of medicinal properties, as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. A study in the Journal of Food Science found that cinnamon can help the regulation of the intestinal microbiome and can be considered a prebiotic. As a familiar, favorite flavor with a broader range of health benefits associated with it, cinnamon is an appealing addition for consumers

Market and Consumer Sentiment

  • The market size for cinnamon on a worldwide basis is expected to reach $1.9 billion U.S. dollars by 2025, a report from Grand View Research stated.
  • Another report from Mordor Intelligence predicts that the cinnamon market will experience a CAGR of 2.6% from 2022 to 2027.
  • Cinnamon was listed as one of the 7 Best Spices and Seasonings for Your Health by S. News & World Report.

Products of Note

Vega Hello Wellness You’ve Got Guts Choco Cinnamon Banana Flavoured Drink Mix is a plant-based, vegan product that provides 5g prebiotic fiber to support gut health and a healthy digestive system, 15g protein, 2B CFUs probiotics, and contains 0g added sugar.

IQ Bar Matcha Chai Bar is a keto and paleo-friendly product that contains six brain nutrients. The product features cinnamon as an ingredient, this vegan snack bar provides 7 grams of prebiotic fiber, 12g plant-based protein, less than 1g sugars, and 3g net carbs.

Regrained Honey Cinnamon Supergrain+ Immunity Bar, previously known as Regrained Supergrain+, is made with cinnamon, turmeric, Manuka honey, and contains 5g fiber and 160 calories. This non-GMO product also contains prebiotic fiber to support gut health and power the active, healthy lifestyle.

34% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Happy Day Brands Cinnamon Maple Pecan Superfood Oatmeal contains 500 million CFU probiotics. It is described as a plant-based, good for you blend of six whole superfood grains including oats, flax, quinoa, chia, teff and amaranth and a patented probiotic.

26% of consumers said they likely or definitely would buy this product.

The Takeaways

As a broad segment of consumers seeks to bolster health by consuming products that maintain or improve good bacteria in the intestinal tract, they are going for products that offer a familiar taste and smell (hello, cinnamon) and are open to experimenting with ingredients that have proven to be gut health superfoods in other parts of the world. There are opportunities for product developers to utilize ingredients that can easily absorb other flavors, such as jicama, and plant-based foods like Jerusalem artichokes that have intrigued chefs for versatile and year-round availability. Beyond these ingredients, look ahead to the next wave of gut health innovations, from combinations of items like yogurt and blueberries or salmon and miso, to postbiotics that deliver on health and function in forms like wholegrain oat flour. Trust your gut that this space has room for new avenues of growth.

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Sources in full report