Even though probiotics market is expanding worldwide, EU consumers cannot be informed about the presence of probiotics in food and food supplements, because 15 years ago the European Commission guidance on the implementation of Regulation 1924/2006 stated that ‘contains probiotics/prebiotics’ should be considered a health claim. And as a consequence, the term ‘probiotic’ cannot be used in labels and communication.
The International Probiotics Association (IPA) Europe was established in Brussels in 2015 and its mission is to “gain the acceptance of the term “probiotic” throughout Europe as a defined category, and to create a favorable environment for probiotics in Europe”
In February 2022, the Research Company 3Gem carried out an online survey on behalf of the IPA about how the probiotics market is perceived among 8000 consumers in Europe.
The survey involved a representative sample of people in 8 European countries (Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Germany and Sweden) to evaluate how much they were informed about the use of probiotic and food supplements and what they wished to learn about probiotics for their use in the everyday life.
The key findings of this survey included details on the probiotic consumer profile which revealed that probiotics are mostly consumed by the 25-44 age group and that consumers are distributed equally between women and men.
Regarding probiotics popularity, the survey found out that most people, even those who do not use or buy probiotics know the term probiotics.
However, one the most relevant information resulting from the survey is that in 7 out of 8 countries, consumers felt like they are not informed about probiotics contained in products they find in the shops. In Italy, 90% of the people taking the survey responded that they would like to see the word “probiotic” on the pack they purchase products. Moreover, consumers would like to be informed about probiotics through, for example, food labels.
Moreover, another term, such as live bacteria or live cultures, are more known than the term probiotics. For example, a very large portion of the consumers in Italy is familiar with ‘live cultures’ (89%).
Finally, most consumers not well informed about usefulness and usage of probiotics: around 50% of the people answered “I don’t know” to the question: “What do you think probiotics are useful for?” but consumers that knew what probiotics food and food supplements were, were informed about the positive impact that probiotics consumption can have on the overall health and wellbeing.
To summarize, this survey suggests that consumers should be more comprehensively educated on the correct usage and usefulness of probiotics through a harmonized EU regulatory approach applied both online and on-site markets.