Could mother and baby focus provide a boom opportunity for probiotics?

A new study helps to explain how nerve cells sense the microbes in the gut and how they coordinate their function with other tissues in the digestive tract.

Infant and maternal health are among the most promising categories for growth in the online probiotics space, according to new data from Lumina Intelligence.

Using its system of tracking online reviews, Lumina has identified that reviews for probiotic products targeting the first 1000 days have grown by 675% in the past 2 years, making it among the most promising categories for growth in the e-commerce space.

“Within the FMCG markets, the rise in popularity fits within the broader mega-trend of personalised nutrition,” ​ explains Ewa Hudson, Director of Insights at Lumina Intelligence. “And mix into this, the drive to improve immunity, we are likely to see opportunities and investment continue within this segment”.

According to Lumina data, across multiple regions classified as ‘developed’ there is a broad trend for probiotics for mother and baby to target specific health conditions relating to gut health, immunity, sepsis, colic, diarrhoea, eczema, and brain health, for example.

Meanwhile, products in developing markets tend to have a heavy focus on tackling micronutrient deficiencies associated with developing world issues like infant mortality, stunting, blindness and rickets as well high rates of stillbirths and congenital abnormalities.

A developing opportunity?

“The developing world is a big opportunity for probiotics because they can do a lot in terms reducing the risk of things like sepsis for example,” Hudson tells Microbiome Post, adding that previous studies showed the potential for L. plantarum in sepsis.

“The use of probiotics could help save lives for less than one dollar, so this a very big opportunity and there are more and more foundations looking at different ways to help prevent infant mortality and disease, and some specific bacteria have shown great benefits in the area.”

Hudson notes that UN sustainable development goals that focus on ending hunger and improving the health and wellbeing of mothers and infants offer an opportunity for probiotics to contribute.

Multiple touchpoints for developed markets

Lumina data shows that in the developed world, some of the most important areas for probiotic benefits are in colic, general digestive health, allergy and immunity.

“There are many touch points when it comes to probiotics and the first 1000 days, including the pre-conception period, the pregnancy itself, and into infant products,” says Hudson – noting that male fertility and maternal health are also ‘interesting’ areas of development for the space.

“There is growing evidence for the benefits of certain probiotics for eczema, and also in the effects of strains on risk of obesity during childhood,” she adds. “Eczema is a big problem for many babies, and the science is really building for the reduction of eczema with the administration of probiotics.”

Hudson says probiotics for eczema are developing well in a number of countries – with Australia having a number of brands taking a lead on the opportunity.

She also pointed to the important role certain probiotics may play in breaking down human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) from breast milk, and the opportunities around that.

“I think that people are not fully aware that C-sections for example will lead to a depleted number of those bacteria in a baby, and the potential need for supplementation to aid that so they are able to fully benefit from HMOs in breast milk.

“Parents are really responsive online, they are eager to share feedback so there is high online engagement around products for pregnant and breast-feeding women and infants.”

Strain breakdown

Analysis from Lumina shows that while more than 30 different probiotic species are commonly found in products focused on maternal and infant health – and are found in various combinations and dosages – the most common species in such products are L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri​.

Indeed, in 109 variants of 79 brands analysed by Lumina, 46% contained a strain of L. rhamnosus and 29% contained an L. reuteri.

Lumina’s 25 market analysis on the first 1000 days and probiotics is accessible via an annual subscription to Lumina Probiotics and is also available for individual purchase.