Trends · 10min read

Probiotics & Prebiotics Consumption in European Markets

Growing interest in probiotics and prebiotics amongst food producers and health-conscious consumers are driving market growth.

In 2019, Business Insider published a PR Newswire press release citing the explosion of new research about the connections between the human microbiome and overall health as the key driver for the rise in the following health and wellness trends: natural energy, plant-based food, and probiotics. Market research has shown a significant increase in the exploration of commercial opportunities by Western European food manufacturers of foods containing prebiotics or probiotics. Improved gut health, lower cholesterol and boosted immune system are often listed as the three main health propositions. Likewise, studies are pointing to the link between the rise in consumer awareness around foods’ abilities to function as medicine, as is true, for example, for many emerging superfoods. 

The key organisations in Europe working to promote prebiotics and probiotics include the Europe International Probiotics Association (IPA), a non-profit international association that represents the industry in discussions, institutions, and national authorities, and the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the science behind probiotics and prebiotics.

Below, we take a closer look at the definition of prebiotics and probiotics, their applications, and how the European markets are evolving.


What are probiotics?

The human body plays host to around 38 trillion microbes. Together, these form a microbiota. And scientific evidence is now beginning to show that the human gastrointestinal microbiota plays a significant role in overall human health. Probiotics are live bacteria (microorganisms) that occur naturally in the body but can also be found in a range of fermented foods, such as cheeses, yoghurts, sauerkraut, and kimchi. Popular applications outside the food industry include dietary supplements, infant formulas, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products. The most common probiotic bacteria strains found in or added to foods are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. There is still some debate within the scientific community around the extent to which probiotics can truly promote gut health, re-balance the microbiome after treatment, and support the immune system. However, health-conscious food producers and consumers are increasingly reaching for these foods for precisely these purposes.


What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics are derived from high-fibre carbohydrates and consumed by the healthy bacteria (microbes) in the human gut. The scientific community defines prebiotics as ‘a substrate that is selectively utilised by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit’. Consumers looking to identify whether or not foods contain prebiotics should keep their eyes peeled for the following terms listed as ingredients: galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), oligofructose (OF), chicory fibre, and inulin. 

Primary applications for prebiotics include infant formulas, fortified foods and beverages, dietary supplements, animal feed and pharmaceuticals. Dairy food manufacturers, for example, utilise prebiotics to attain specific consistencies, such as increased creaminess. Prebiotics are increasingly added to conventional foods, such as cereals, breads, biscuits and other baked goods, or drinks, such as smoothies, to cater to rising health-conscious consumer groups. Purported health benefits include the ability to improve calcium absorption, facilitate carbohydrate processing, and gut bacteria growth. Furthermore, inulin, for example, can be utilised as a substitute for certain fats and sugars, making it an increasingly popular ingredient in food processing


The European Probiotics Market

Over the past decade, the global probiotics foods and supplements markets have been on a continuous upward trend. In 2019, the total market sales in the EU for these categories combined equated USD 10.217,6 million. For 2020 - 2025 Mordor Intelligence lists a forecasted CAGR of 5.35%, with Russia leading as Europe’s largest market. Within the EU, Italy, Germany, and France account for approximately 45.5% of total sales. Interestingly, before being surpassed by China and the US in 2009, the EU boasted the world’s largest probiotics supplement market. 

The rise in obesity, lactose intolerance, and an ageing population are all cited as drivers for the increasing demand for functional foods and beverages in Europe. Though the probiotics market continues to grow, it’s growth rate has slowed significantly in Europe in recent years. One of the main challenges for the industry remains the need for additional scientific and clinical evidence supporting the health benefits that many food producers claim and consumers associate with probiotic foods and supplements.


The European Prebiotics Market

According to Mordor Intelligence, the European prebiotic ingredient market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.11% from 2020 - 2025. In general, the rise in prebiotics in infant formulas as a replacement for breast milk is highlighted as a key potential contributor to this growth. Graphical Research expects Germany’s prebiotics market, which is Europe’s largest market, to exceed USD 930 million by 2026. Primary market growth drivers in Germany include consumer association with health benefits, such as enhanced calcium and magnesium absorption. Interestingly, in the UK, on the other hand, prebiotics’ applications in animal feed are expected to result in significant traction in the market. Thus, prebiotics’ potential ability to not only facilitate human health but the health of other animals carves the way for exciting new opportunities when looking at the pet or livestock industries.

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Imagery: (1) Daily Nouri and (2) Tim Oliver Metz for, (3)

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