With digestive health products in high demand, manufacturers are responding to the challenge, as they develop products with influential ingredients that meet customer needs.
If one comes to think of it, digestive health is a major player in living everyday life. One cannot survive without food (and water of course), and once it is consumed, the body begins the breakdown process.
Unfortunately, all does not always go according to plan once food is ingested. According to the American Nutrition Association, 70 million people suffer from some form of digestive issue, such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), among others. People turn to items including pre and probiotics, along with digestive enzymes to aid these problems, which has helped contribute to the billion-dollar digestive health market that exists today (SPINS, 2016).
Although digestive health and item design may both present concerns, manufacturers’ role in formulating products provides a positive outlook on not only the current market, but on developments that could impact the future.
As referred to earlier, with solutions to digestive issues/diseases in high demand, manufacturers find themselves relying on well-established ingredients within the industry to establish a successful formula.
This includes digestive enzymes and herbs that have gained popularity in traditional medicine.
“The mainstay ingredients in digestive health supplements are probably digestive enzymes,” said Nena Dockery, technical services manager with Stratum Nutrition (Missouri), which offers ACTAZIN, a concentrated kiwi ingredient derived from New Zealand green kiwifruit. “These have been around a long time and are used to support general digestion and to address deficiencies, such as lactase supplementation to supply the critical enzyme for digesting lactose (milk sugar). Certain herbal ingredients have also been used, particularly in traditional medicine, to address digestive complaints. Ingredients such as ginger, marshmallow and aloe are still popular in general digestive formulas.
“In the last decade or so, probiotic supplementation has increased dramatically and is used to address multiple digestive issues as well as to support gut immune health.” As Dockery stated, ginger has been instrumental in this department, not just for decades. In fact, according to Lynda M. Doyle, MS Human Nutrition and senior vice president at OmniActive Health Technologies in New Jersey, it dates back as far as 4,000 years.
“Besides ginger’s long history as a digestive aid, it is widely viewed as a safe and well-researched option. Picking a safe and effective ingredient from a reliable, responsible supplier of quality ingredients is the key to success when formulating a digestive health product,” Doyle noted. “Gingever was developed with an emphasis on purity, potency and batch-to-batch consistency. Our supercritical CO2 extraction process produces a ginger extract with little damage or denaturing and without the use of harsh extraction solvents. Moreover, just 60 mg of Gingever is equivalent to approximately 1,000 mg of ginger root powder, allowing for lower doses.”
Dysbiosis, a microbial imbalance that can target several parts of the body including the digestive tract (doctorshealthpress.com), can also be treated by prebiotics and probiotics. Susan Hewlings, PhD, RD and chief science officer of Oklahoma-based IgY Nutrition, broke down pre and probiotics’ specific functions.
“In addition to a healthy diet,” she said, “pro- and prebiotics help to correct dysbiosis. While probiotics provide beneficial flora, prebiotics may offer an alternative or symbiotic benefit to probiotics as they have been used to stimulate beneficial bacteria to help to restore balance. In contrast to the probiotic action, which provides living microorganisms, prebiotics stimulate the activity of healthful bacteria.”
Still a cause for concern is how supplements and ingredients will survive transportation and storage conditions. This is especially important, since some products may lose their benefit if not treated with proper care.
“Manufacturers need to be mindful of how to maintain the stability of probiotics and target delivery in the intestines where they work best,” said Missy Lowery, MS, senior manager of marketing at Capsugel Americas (South Carolina). “The pressure and heat from the tableting process is harsh and can compromise the stability of probiotics. Transportation and storage issues—such as length of time, temperature fluctuation, and exposure to moisture—can put probiotics in yogurt products and other packaging like sticks and sachets at risk for early activation. Probiotics can also be acid-sensitive, so as they transition through the stomach, moisture and acid can cause early activation and degradation. Like probiotics, enzymes can be acid-sensitive and might be prone to damage in the digestive process before they reach the small intestine. Encapsulation of these supplements is a step forward in offering more protection from moisture and delayed release. Capsugel, in particular, has taken several steps extra and concentrated on using vegetarian capsules with specialized delivery features to prevent early activation before and after ingestion and to provide for targeted release into the intestines.”
An issue often faced by formulators comes down to the basics—there is sometimes confusion as to what a product’s function truly is.
“A common challenge for manufacturers and formulators is a general lack of understanding how enzymes differ from other supplements,” said Mike Smith, vice president, Specialty Enzymes & Biotechnologies (California). “For example, vitamins and minerals have a daily value based on their weight. Vitamin C, for example, has a daily value of 60 mg. With enzymes, it is their activity rather than weight that is important. For example, protease can have an activity of 1000 HUT/g and it can have up to 800,000 HUT/g. That means the 800,000 HUT/g protease will break down 800 times more protein than the 1000, at the same weight. For assistance, it is always best to contact the technical support division of the enzyme company you work with.”
Without understanding the differences between products, this could present a challenge when it comes to meeting the needs of consumers. Among consumers, a common issue includes the inability to digest of various products such as gluten, among other food sensitivities.
As Scott Ravech, CEO of Deerland Ezymes in Georgia noted, it is crucial that enzymes be created to work around these daily problems and help solve them.
“Consumers are increasingly recognizing that they might have difficulty with normal digestion of some wheat and dairy foods,” he said. “Eighteen million Americans believe they have difficulty digesting gluten, while a whopping 50 million report discomfort due to ingestion of dairy products (Center for Celiac Research and Treatment, American Gastroenterological Association). Maximizing digestion of proteins helps to support overall health and wellness, and enzyme-based solutions can help. To address the growing demand for products that address food sensitivities, Deerland Enzymes’ latest products, Glutalytic and Dairylytic, have been designed to optimize digestion of gluten and dairy proteins.” In turn, providing safety and ease of use to the consumer is not only important to digestive products, but also formulations on a broad-spectrum scale.
State of the Market
Being that digestion is an everyday process, buyers are in constant need for products that can help solve digestive issues. In fact, when it comes to new product development, there is a strong focus on dietary fiber, prebiotic and probiotic content claims, according to Bill Driessen, director, technical sales (Central U.S. & Latin America), Taiyo International, Inc. in Minnesota.
Aside from new products, the current market is driven by one’s access to information. Via television, radio, social media and other platforms, people are now becoming much more informed about ways to take better care of their bodies.
“Data from NBJ (Nutrition Business Journal) puts the estimated growth rate at just over 12 percent per annum for the digestive health market as it relates to dietary supplements,” said Mark Thurston, president of ingredient supplier AIDP in California. “There is much information in the news these days about digestive health and its importance in overall human health. Since launching a range of clinically proven prebiotics promoting Bifidobacterium growth, AIDP has seen growth rates well in excess of the overall market, as consumers begin to understand the benefits of feeding their own colonies of beneficial flora by using prebiotics. The temperature, acid stability of prebiotics also makes it ideal for formulation in different types of foods, beverages and supplements.”
As a result of this exposure to information, there is an added pressure for manufacturers, when it comes to the quality of ingredients that they need to produce. “Consumers are expecting ingredients to deliver functionality and benefits that address health related issues, but want to know they are safe,” noted Christopher Penet, vice president, BIO-CAT Microbials (Minnesota). “The regulations for new ingredients are under review, and while the consumer-driven needs are emerging, the time to market, safety testing and adherence to science based results (clinical trials) takes time and effort.”
The shoppers who expect more from the ingredients that they purchase are not all limited to one particular age group, as one might expect. Rather, the demographic for digestive health products is arguably broader than it has ever been before.
“The demographic has broadened to range from young people that may live on tacos and ramen noodles, to the elderly whose digestive function has slowed, and everyone in between, as understanding of the benefits various supplements can impart in good digestive health,” said Shaheen Majeed, marketing director with Sabinsa Corp. in New Jersey.
Besides having more access to information, the wider range in consumers could also be attributed to having certain items target a specific audience.
Mike Bush, president of Ganeden (Ohio) and executive board president of the International Probiotics Association, noted that this is quite popular in the case of probiotics. “The demographic has expanded to include all age ranges and backgrounds, though sometimes for differing reasons. While all consumers have an interest in probiotics for digestive health, certain claims tied to a probiotic strain may be more important to certain audiences,” he said. “For example, our survey showed that parents have a strong interest in GanedenBC30’s immune health benefits in children’s products, and athletes and exercise enthusiasts are most concerned with its effect on protein utilization in sports nutrition products. As more targeted and specialized products become available, there’s becoming a probiotic solution for every lifestyle and preference.”
When it comes to improving ingredient advancements in digestive health, the importance of research cannot be overstated. While suppliers may focus on a particular ingredient, ultimately, the goal is to help others.
For instance, Fruit d’Or Nutraceuticals (Quebec, Canada) is precisely interested in research regarding cranberry seed and probiotics for digestive and gut health, according to Stephen Lukawski, director of business development and global sales.
“Our research shows that cranberry can provide greater benefits than UTI (urinary tract infection),” he noted. “High levels of soluble and insoluble PACs in cranberry can improve the microflora environment for gut health. Cranberry can act as a prebiotic, provide protein for immune support and improve the micro flora environment for gut health.” It is highly recommended that companies test ingredients during various stages, in order to ensure that customers are utilizing a product that is providing them with the full effect, whether this product be a pre/probiotic or a digestive enzyme.
“Our company and other manufacturers are also interested in testing for survivability,” said Bush. “Many probiotic strains are very fragile due to the nature of the organism, and most cannot survive in foods and beverages outside of the dairy category due to manufacturing processes. It is crucial to test any probiotic product to confirm efficacious doses at the time of consumption (not simply at time of manufacture) to ensure the end-user is receiving the expected probiotic benefits.”
One scientific advancement involves the effectiveness of probiotic strains, even with cells that are no longer active.
“Nutrition companies are looking for strains with strong stability data,” said Dan Lifton, president, Maypro Industries (New York). “Many manufacturers are still focused on how many billion CFUs of active bacteria they can offer in their probiotic products; however, more cutting-edge research points to the viability of heat-killed or inactivated probiotic strains that could also offer powerful effects on health without the worry of keeping cells alive. To stay ahead of the trend, Maypro offers two of such well-researched proprietary branded ingredients for digestion, including Pylopass, which is composed of spray-dried, inactivated cells of Lactobacillus reuteri, and L-92, which is made up of patented, sterilized lactic acid bacteria.”
As a result of these new ideas that may have been unheard of years ago, the outcome is positive—there is now a clearer understanding of the relationship between cause, effect and the factors that affect digestive issues and illnesses.
“It [research] has evolved from the focus on treatment and on identification of a single cause for gastrointestinal complaints to the awareness of the complex connection between diet, environment, lifestyle and the microbiota,” said Hewlings. “Identification of the microbiota and the idea that may play a role in digestive health is not new; however, there has been a resurgence of interest in the human microbiota and its role in health over the last two decades. This interest has been largely fueled by advances in DNA sequencing technology, which have provided information about both individual human-associated organ-isms (genome sequencing) and microbial communities (metagenome sequencing).
“Efforts to characterize the human microbiota have increased our understanding of the types of organisms present in these communities and linked community composition to various host phenotypes, including numerous diseases. In addition, it has raised awareness that an imbalance in the microbiota can lead to symptoms, ranging from sub-clinical gastrointestinal issues such as gas and bloating, to irritable bowel syndrome and even conditions not typically identified as gastrointestinal, such as metabolic syndrome and diabetes and immune system health. This opens the door for synergistic ingredients rather than single ingredient products … as a result, consumer consciousness of the critical link between the gut and the immune system is becoming more accepted and understood.”
A Look Ahead
How exactly does the future of digestive health and its ingredient advancements pan out? While there is no complete certainty as to what lies ahead, there is plenty of potential.
“The future of digestive enzyme supplementation is certainly bright, as research is now focusing on additional enzyme benefits like celiac disease management,” said Majeed. “Furthermore, in the near future, we might look forward to condition-targeted supplements containing a tailor-made combination of digestive enzymes, probiotics and/or botanicals to hit the shelves. For this to happen, the industry needs to substantiate the safety and efficacy of such products with battery of clinical studies.” NIE
For More Information:
AIDP, (626) 964-6910
BIO-CAT Microbials, (877) 912-4622
Capsugel Americas, (864) 942-3063
Deerland Enzymes, (800) 697-8179
Fruit d’Or Nutraceuticals, (888) 472-2275
Ganeden, (440) 229-5200
IgY Nutrition, (405) 242-5382
Maypro Industries, (914) 251-0701
OmniActive Health Technologies, (866) 588-3629
Sabinsa Corp., (801) 465-8400
Specialty Enzymes & Biotechnologies, (909) 613-1660
Stratum Nutrition, (888) 403-5039
Taiyo International, Inc., (763) 398-3003