Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Battle For The Bowel... Is there a beverage opportunity?

I have spent some time recently getting into digestive health. It is the most rapidly expanding area of functional foods and is getting ever more retail space.

The functional ingredients driving the digestive health opportunity are live probiotic bacterias that can exist in refrigerated yogurt cultures.

Danone has been the leader in this area, segmenting the market into two main benefit areas: Immunity which is targeted by DanActive, and the larger opportunity euphemistically described Transit Digestion (ie anti constipation) benefit, led by Activia.

Just look at dairy this section in my local A&P and see how much space and effort is being put against probiotics as a functional ingredient.

Selling "Transit Digestion" is a challenge. You need to communicate the benefit without adding a negative badge value. If Slimfast says "I'm fat", what would Activia say about the user? Not Pretty. See this UK TV ad as an example.

And inevitably has spawned multiple parodies, for example this one from SNL... "the yogurt that makes you crap"!

The good news is that all the Activia promotion has acquainted consumers with the function, and now other products can take advantage of the opportunity... For example Rachel's yogurt - exotic flavors, contemporary packaging and probiotics...

There have been a couple of beverage plays into the area, through Lifeway Kefir and Next Foods Goodbelly, but both have significant issues to overcome: Taste and Convenience. Since probiotic cultures have to be active, they cannot be shelf stable - and require are not the most refreshing of beverage choices.

So... is there an opportunity here for mainstream, shelf stable beverages? My guess is that there is. Not as a probiotic alternative - but as a prebiotic alternative.

Probiotic bacteria turally occur in the digestive tract. They require sustenance to survive in the form of prebiotics - inulin and fiber: Ingredients that can be shelf stable, and target the same opportunity.

Aquafina Alive is an interesting venture into this space... adding some fiber to their product.

But Pre may be the better way to approach the marketplace, using the term "Probiotic Enhancer", with a more attractive package with added legitimacy from the use of the Jarrow ingredient trademark.

The growth in dairy suggests that these ideas should find favor with consumers... and another blow will be struck for functional foods.

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