Drinks For A Healthy Gut: Probiotic Solutions For Asia’s Beverage Markets

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

With demand for functional beverages growing across Asia-Pacific, John Quilter, VP and General Manager, ProActive Health at Kerry discusses the ever increasing opportunities offered by fortification with spore-forming probiotics


Asia’s growing probiotics market

The global probiotics market is expanding – it is estimated to be worth $69 billion by 2023.[1] Growth is particularly rapid in the Asia-Pacific region, which will account for an estimated $31.67 billion (46 percent of the global market)[2]. The Chinese probiotic market alone is expected to hit $11.36 billion by 2023, accounting for 36 percent of Asia and 16 percent of the global market.[3]

Probiotics formulated into foods and beverages account for over 80 percent of the probiotic market and the category is growing at a CAGR of 6.8 percent. The Asian market is projected to grow at 8.4 percent CAGR and China is projected to grow even more quickly at 8.5 percent CAGR. [4]


Demand for functional beverages

At the same time, demand for functional and fortified beverages generally continues to grow in Asia. In retail terms only the U.S. consumed more fortified / functional energy drinks than China in 2018.[5]

Other examples of popular functional beverages are meal replacement drinks, while beverages with probiotic or digestive health claims – launches of which have increased by 300 percent globally since 2014 [6] – are also increasingly important.

Hot beverages and juices are particularly fertile ground for digestive health innovation. Worldwide, the number of new launches in the category with a probiotic or digestive health claim has risen by 22.4 percent since 2014 – more than double the rate of these categories as a whole over the same period (11.9 percent).[7]


Fueled by awareness, interest and proactivity

So what’s driving this boom in innovation? A recent global consumer report by GanedenBC30 provides some insights:

Increasing interest in digestive health

We surveyed over 11,000 health-conscious consumers in 14 countries, including India, China, Japan, Indonesia and Thailand.[8] For the majority of respondents, digestive health was a personal priority. In fact, “Promote Good Digestive Health” was one of the top three reasons for purchasing healthy lifestyle products in the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region, outscoring both improved energy and heart health.

High levels of awareness of probiotic benefits, especially in Asia

Furthermore, the survey found high levels of awareness of the benefits of probiotics. In China, 67 percent of consumers were aware of probiotics and 49 percent had used them over the last six months. Not only that, but 56 percent of those who were aware of probiotics accurately understood their benefits for good digestive health.


Beverages beat pills

And when it comes to how they want to get these benefits, consumers express a clear preference for food and beverages rather than pills. Research in 2018 found that 57 percent of consumers wanted to use beverages as a vehicle for digestive health benefits while only 23 percent wanted to use pills or tablets.[9] Unsurprisingly then, food and beverage products collectively represent by far the biggest segment of the digestive health market.


A proactive approach to digestive health

Clearly, digestive health is on the mind of many consumers in the Asia Pacific region. Our research also found, however, that they are not just interested in their digestive health – they’re also proactively seeking out food and beverage products to improve it. We also asked consumers if they would be interested in purchasing products across various categories if they contained ingredients that promoted digestive health. With probiotics traditionally associated with refrigerated dairy products, it is perhaps unsurprising that yogurt and yogurt-based drinks emerged as the most popular option for Asian consumers at 42 percent. Yet significant numbers also expressed an interest in categories not traditionally associated with probiotics such as fruit and vegetable juices (37 percent), hot beverages (25 percent), ready-to-drink teas and coffees (25 percent) and kids’ beverages (16 percent).


Formulation Challenges

While demand is clear, the challenge often begins when manufacturers ask “How can we formulate with probiotics?” Why? Because not all probiotic strains are created equal. There are important variations in levels of performance in areas such as survivability, health benefit efficacy and formulation flexibility. Many probiotic strains are fragile and need to be refrigerated, making it hard to offer digestive health benefits in products beyond the dairy aisle.


Spore-forming probiotics: Creating new possibilities in beverages

Things have changed, however, thanks to the emergence of Bacillus coagulans probiotic strains. These are hardy, spore-forming bacteria with a structure that is much more resistant to extremes of pH, heat, cold, and pressure, making them an excellent fit for the fortification of everyday foods and beverages.

They can be used in products that are hot, cold, frozen, shelf-stable, or subject to most extreme manufacturing processes. As a result, spore-forming probiotics can be incorporated into products in many beverage categories, including hot teas, cold teas, coffees, and refrigerated smoothies and juices. Some of our partners have even developed straws and cap technologies that allow probiotics to be formulated in the shelf-stable beverage category.



The leading spore-forming probiotic is GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6086), a patented strain with a protective shell that shields it from both stomach acids and most food-processing conditions, including heat, shear, HTST, and HPP pasteurisation.

GanedenBC30 is supported by more than 25 published papers demonstrating its benefits. In addition to digestive health, this substantial body of research shows that it supports immune health and may enhance the body’s ability to utilise protein, which also makes it an excellent ingredient for sports nutrition products.

Because of its stability and survivability compared to vegetative cells, GanedenBC30 helps meet consumer demand for probiotics in a wide range of beverage products. Our research also indicated the scale of its potential in China, where 95 percent of consumers said they would definitely or probably buy a product containing it, while 73 percent would switch to a different brand if their usual one was not available with GanedenBC30


The importance of education

Despite the high awareness of the benefits of probiotics, there are still a lot of myths around. The most common is that all probiotic strains are the same when in fact each is unique, with its own distinct characteristics. These properties can influence safety, efficacy and suitability for particular applications.

The GanedenBC30 brand connects with consumers by educating them about probiotics, delivering on ingredient transparency, and ultimately building trust in the final product. To give one example, we recently hosted a webinar with a panel of experts, including. Don Cox, PhD, Director of Research and Development, Kerry ProActive Health and Brian Nevin, Senior Business Development Director, Kerry Applied Health and Nutrition for an informative discussion covering market-specific probiotic and digestive health trends; how spore-forming probiotics help provide solutions to formulation challenges; and Innovative ideas that demonstrate how to incorporate a spore-forming probiotic into different product applications.

You can view the webinar here: http://bit.ly/FNA_Article


[1] MarketsandMarkets, Probiotics Market Global Forecast to 2023, Dec 2018

[2] MarketsandMarkets

[3] MarketsandMarkets

[4] MarketsandMarkets

[5] Euromonitor, Fortified and Functional Beverages in China, April 2019

[6] Mintel, GNPD, 2019

[7] Mintel

[8] Kerry Global Consumer Survey – Digestive and Immune Health – 2019

[9] GlobalData – Ingredient Insights: Digestive Health, August 2018


Read more:

Seaweed—The Superfood On The Rise

Health-Conscious Consumers Want It All—Both Plants And Meat Options

Azelis Expands Distribution Agreement With Roquette Into Asia Pacific

DuPont Releases Clinical Study Results That Demonstrate Benefits Of High-Potency, Multi-Strain Probiotic Formulations

Kerry Group To Acquire Ganeden To Expand Probiotic Portfolio

F&N To Open S$80 Million Smart, Sustainable Facility In Singapore

Kerry To Showcase Science-Based Functional And Nutritional Ingredients At VitaFoods Asia 2019

Chr. Hansen Launches Nu-Trish LGG DA To Further Improve The Health Appeal Of Fermented Plant Bases