Probiotics are microorganisms that produce definite health effects such as promotion of healthy intestinal bacteria and suppressing harmful bacteria in the human body. They can be found in food products such as yogurt, milk and drinks, dietary supplements, and more. They are also known to play a role in gastrointestinal health, immune support, and digestive system balance, among other benefits.
As the global demand for probiotics continues to rise, many food companies are exploring the benefits of incorporating these beneficial microorganisms into their foods and beverages. Currently, dairy products account for the majority of probiotics sales in Europe, with yogurt and fermented milks such as Nestle’s LC1, Vifit (Campina Melkunie, Zaltbommel, Netherlands), Actimel (Danone, Paris) and Yakult leading the way. These products are often marketed as functional foods, which are foods claimed to have positive health-promoting effects.
Incorporation of probiotics into a food requires careful selection of the appropriate strain, which should be compatible with the food product’s manufacturing and storage conditions. A significant challenge is ensuring the surviving microorganisms reach the gastrointestinal tract in sufficient numbers, with resistance to the acidity of the stomach and the bile in the small intestine also important considerations.
Traditionally, probiotic bacteria are used in fermented dairy products with limited shelf life and refrigerated storage, but they can now be included in dry-type dietary supplements that are expected to have up to 24 months of stability at room temperature. This longevity is largely dependent on water activity and the food matrix, with low-water-activity formulations preferred to ensure the longest possible shelf life.
The most stable bacterial cultures are those that are freeze-dried and produced as pellets rather than powdered, as they are less likely to be affected by water activity during processing and handling. Secondary packaging options can also help to extend shelf life, for example a straw-based delivery system where the probiotic is held in a separate compartment in the bottle cap or straw and only released when consumed.
Gihi chemicals, a leading bulk probiotics wholesaler, pays close attention to these factors in their development of the products they supply, as well as maintaining high quality and cost-effectiveness. For example, they use the latest technology to make sure that the bacteria survive the process of freeze-drying and storage, as well as incorporating them into a variety of food and drink formats to meet different consumer needs.
The popularity of probiotics in South Korea has been fuelled by consumers’ desire for a balanced microbiome, and their growing awareness about the importance of probiotics for their overall health. They are learning about this through media, TV health programs and commercials, and SNS websites. In fact, probiotics outsell vitamins and minerals in the country’s market, with growth mainly driven by lacto-fit brands such as Chong Dun Kang’s Lacto-Fit, Esther Formula’s Ultra Flora Probiotics, and CJ Cheiljedang’s Byo, according to Luminate Intelligence. This is a trend that may well continue into the future.