It feels like we have been banging on about gut health for a while now. We’ve looked at more unusual applications like probiotic fruit and okara, to obvious ones like fermented veg and kefir, along with research into the microbiome and restaurant’s specialising in gut-friendly food.
But does this trend still have mileage or is it beginning to stall?
Just this month, we’ve seen new products with a lot of ‘first in the UK’ claims pushing into the gut health arena, but there are challenges with what manufacturers can legally highlight as health benefits.
So what’s new in the gut health space? The Collective is targeting kids with its Super Yoghurt brand, a new range of kefir yoghurts with vitamin D and gut-friendly cultures. It hit shelves last week in Sainsbury’s and Ocado, with other retailers scheduled to stock it later this year.
Its co-founder, Amelia Harvey, said it represented the first fermented dairy product in the UK developed especially for children, combining the health benefits of kefir with vitamin D to “help kids’ immune systems function properly.” Flavours like strawberry and peach with mango were “created for kids’ taste palates,” while the yoghurts also contain no added sugar and millions of gut-friendly live cultures, according to the brand.
Bio-tiful Dairy has released the world’s first kefir quark big pot into Waitrose, delivering a dose of live cultures and protein in one product. Its new launch is being billed as a good swap for Greek and natural yoghurt.
The company is also adding what it claims is the UK’s first cacao kefir smoothie, along with a honey and ginger flavour. The two products will launch into Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda this month. The products contains over 40 strains of gut-friendly bacteria, compared to conventional milk that has zero and conventional yoghurt that only has a couple.
“Our cacao and honey and ginger NPD are building on the widespread appeal of kefir and naturally functional dairy,” said Natasha Bowes, founder of Bio-tiful Dairy. “With our research into trends and feedback straight from consumers themselves, we’re looking to lead the way with the most appealing flavours.”
Meanwhile, Dairy Crest has also unveiled a prebiotic shot to rival the likes of Yakult and Actimel. Launched under the brand Promovita, it contains galacto-oligosaccharides – also known as GOS – an indigestible fibre derived from lactose that ferments in the gut and feeds bacteria including bifidobacteria and lactobacilli. It will be stocked in Ocado and on Amazon and comes in ambient liquid sachets.
Soft drinks to bone broth
But it’s not just dairy products that are aimed at gut health. Soft drinks start-up Genie is debuting with a duo of ‘living drinks’ it claims is the first of its kind in the UK. They contain active Bacillus Coagulens cultures billed as promoting gut health and are similar to kombucha drinks, but can be stored in ambient conditions for 12 months.
Genie also claims its drinks sidestep the “challenging taste or texture” some other health or probiotic drinks can have. Available in two flavours, original orange and lemon and ginger, the products also have a lower calorie count compared to some soft drinks.
“In creating Genie, we wanted to respond to consumer demand for healthier soft drinks that taste great while also delivering some health benefits,” said the brand’s co-founder Alex Webster. “Boosting your gut with a drink that’s not high in sugar or additives is an easy way to do that – especially if you like a fizzy drink for sheer enjoyment or are looking for an alternative to alcohol.”
Kellogg’s has also signalled that it will relaunch its range of ‘Happy Gut’ cereals next month, while Whole Foods has partnered with start-up brand Ossa to open a bone broth bar.
As part of the launch, Ossa unveiled a 14 Day Gut Reset programme, a collection of “restorative” food and a nutrition guide “to help consumers get curious about their gut health and learn how to kickstart their body’s natural healing process.”
Vita Coco CEO Giles Brook predicted gut health was going to explode this year with advanced (natural) and sophisticated propositions across pre- and probiotic, fermentation and vinegars.
“This will challenge the old guard (friendly bacteria) and categories that saw some great early wins in this space but now face more advanced competition coming in,” he told Food Spark’s sister site The Grocer. “The category will evolve and generalise as far and as wide as we’ve seen on protein but then retrench in core product areas where long term, consumers expect to have this need met.”
But where does Sparkie see the gut health market going?
I have seen a lot of reports suggesting this will continue to be a major trend this year too. I will point out, though, that last year’s trends articles said the same. I think what has happened is that the overriding health trend seems to have gotten so big that the smaller trends within it are getting a little lost.
I have worked with the producers of a lot of health food to get these things to market and for a lot of it, EU law stands in the way by preventing producers putting their health claims on the label – limiting the message that these products have elsewhere. There is some considerable speculation that there will be a push from the scientific community to discuss producers utilising fraudulent or misleading claims to market their health food product. I would suggest that producers moving into this market do so with some caution, ensuring they can completely back up their claims.
The products themselves however appear to be innovative and at a higher quality than ever for the health food market. What really appears to be missing now is someone that’s able to turn a profit by cheap mass production as opposed to the current focus on the premium profits.