Friday, January 22, 2021

Putting Biotics to Work in Dairy


Photo source: Springfield Creamery/Nancy's

Springfield Creamery, manufacturers of the Nancy’s brand of fermented dairy foods, is believed to be the first yogurt in the U.S. to use the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus with its rollout back in 1970. Since, the company continues to refine its meticulous, scientific approach to delivering the most essential probiotic health benefits in every cup. (A big thank you to my friends at the dairy who sent me an amazing care package of products to keep me and my family healthy during my positive COVID-19 diagnosis.)

Probiotic literally means “for life,” and for good reason, Springfield Creamery explains on its website. “These living microbial superstars stimulate the immune system and improve digestive function, for a balanced gut and good health.”

It took a pandemic for many consumers to finally start believing in this correlation, to believe in the science. Science shows that abundant, flourishing good gut bacteria promote a healthy immune system by staving off pathogens, such as foodborne microorganisms and viruses. It’s no wonder that foods designed to promote digestive health are forecast to be one of the hottest food categories in 2021. 

Around the world, “immunity” has become a buzzword, with Google searches for the term hitting a five-year high in March 2020, according to the just-released “The Future 100: 2021” report from Wunderman Thompson Intelligence. You can download a complimentary copy of the think tank’s annual snapshot of the most compelling trends for the coming year HERE.

The report charts 10 emerging trends across 10 sectors that include culture, tech, beauty and retail. For the first time, the report looks at work trends, as the dual forces of a mass shift to working from home and a rise in unemployment fueled by the pandemic has changed our professional lives. The report also includes 21 exclusive predictions from industry experts on what 2021 has in store. I highly recommend reading it. 

Immunity wellness is discussed, but not specifically from a food perspective. The report explores the emerging concept of wellness centers dedicated to educating and nourishing consumers with immunity-boosting programs. 

“Wellness offerings are expanding to incorporate immunity strengthening elements for consumers who want to boost their defenses against viruses,” according to the report. 

Dairy foods manufacturers need to be on board and own this market. That’s because as the immunity market grows, so is the fake news on the topic of probiotics. 

“Ongoing anxiety stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to push consumers toward prioritizing their immune health,” says Lu Ann Williams, global insights director at Innova Market Insights. “Immunity-boosting ingredients will play a significant role for the coming year, while research and interest in the role of the microbiome and personalized nutrition as ways to strengthen immunity will accelerate.”

Education is key. The Probiotics Institute by Chr. Hansen’s is a comprehensive source of information for consumers, educators and manufacturers to better understand probiotics and their role in health and wellness. That’s because all probiotics are not created equal. This is something Springfield Creamery knows, which is why its fermented dairy foods contain a specially designed cocktail of cultures to supplement the trillions of bacteria that inherently reside in the gastrointestinal system. These are live microorganisms, most often lactic acid bacteria, which when consumed in adequate amounts, help create a better-balanced microbiome. This microbial community—the microbiome--has distinct physio-chemical properties that help regulate an array of bodily functions. 

In addition to all probiotics not being equal, there’s also confusion regarding probiotics and fermented foods. Probiotics can be delivered to the consumer in fermented foods, namely dairy products, but not all fermented foods contain probiotics. Yet some marketers of (non-dairy) fermented foods promote their products as being probiotic without scientific substantiation. 

The much-anticipated international consensus definition of fermented foods was published earlier this month in Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. First author Maria Marco, professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of California Davis, and board member of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), produced a video explaining the differences between probiotics and fermented foods. It can be viewed HERE

She also wrote “The future is microbial: A post-pandemic focus on identifying microbes and metabolites that support health.” You can read it HERE

That word metabolites brings me to a new term that many of you have many not know. It’s postbiotics. 
Postbiotics do away with the need to add probiotics by being the healthy metabolites that the microbiome produce, the compounds that possess the actual health benefit. This includes an array of enzymes, peptides, organic acids, fatty acids and more. 

The ISAPP published a consensus definition on postbiotics at the end of 2020. The definition--a preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host--is designed to clear up ambiguities in the relatively new term. 

This essentially means that postbiotics are deliberately inactivated microbial cells or cell components, either with or without their metabolites, that confer a health benefit, according to Colin Hill, professor of microbiology, University College Cork, Ireland, who spoke at a recent Naturally Informed virtual event on the immunity and wellness market.

And don’t forget the other biotic in the functional ingredient world. That’s prebiotics, the fuel for probiotics to proliferate in order to positively impact the body. Remember, prebiotics are frequently equated with dietary fibers, but only a subset of dietary fibers actually qualify as prebiotics. Further, according to the broad scientific definition from the ISAPP, prebiotics need not be forms of dietary fiber. 

Chobani recently introduced Little Chobani Probiotic Yogurt Drinks and Pouches. The new line is promoted as containing “multi-benefit probiotics shown to aid immune and tummy health.” The yogurts have a diverse blend of scientifically confirmed probiotic strains: LGG, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and Lactobacillus casei. The company’s research shows that today’s consumers are looking for immunity-boosting products but very few understand what probiotics are. Little Chobani Probiotic products are available in 4-fluid ounce drinks (six-packs) in Strawberry and Cookies & Cream flavors. Little Chobani Probiotic 3.5-ounce pouches (four-packs) are available in Strawberry Banana, Mixed Berry, and Strawberry & Grape flavors. The products contain no artificial ingredients and are a source of complete protein. (There’s an adult version, too. Look for it as a Daily Dose of Dairy this coming week.)

Biotiful Dairy has launched Immunity Kefir Shots to the U.K. marketplace. Described as the “perfect daily boost, that supports your immunity naturally,” each 100-milliliter bottle contains 30 billion active cultures. Available in single-serve and multi-pack formats, the shots come in four flavors: Acerola Cherry and Tea; Coconut and Spirulina; Original; and Peach and Turmeric. The shots are made by fermenting British milk with authentic live kefir grains. The shots are naturally high in protein and calcium, contain no added sugar, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals.

It’s time to put biotics to work in dairy foods. Educate the consumer to assist them with their health and wellness journey. 

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