Study: Probiotics Still Misunderstood

Well, it certainly isn’t Jamie Lee Curtis’ fault, but the fact remains that many consumers don’t actually know what probiotics are. Curtis has served as a highly visible spokeswoman for Dannon Activia, a leading yogurt that contains probiotics -- healthy bacteria said to help digestion.

Still, despite Dannon and the efforts of competitors such as LiveActive from Kraft Foods, 63 percent of consumers reported that they’re still confused by probiotics. Only 13 percent of those claiming familiarity could accurately provide a definition. These were the findings from a Datamonitor study released this week, which was commissioned by Kraft.

The results show an improvement, however, according Datamonitor consumer markets analyst Mark Whalley. A survey conducted by Opinion Research Corp. for Ganeden Biotech in 2008 found that 85 percent of respondents were unfamiliar with probiotics. In 2007, 78 percent of respondents to an NPD Group had no knowledge the term “probiotics” at all.

“This emphasizes how there is still a need for brands to educate U.S. consumers about the benefits of probiotic consumption. The good news is that Americans appear to be responding to marketing messages,” said Whalley.

He said that Datamonitor predicts the U.S. probiotic market will continue to grow as more consumers shift to healthier eating habits and increase their working knowledge of the associated health benefits of probiotics. Datamonitor forecasts that the industry could be worth up to $2 billion or more by 2013.

“What is clear is that during the economic crisis, manufacturers need to continue to create probiotic products, which consumers find an integral part of their daily routine; otherwise much of the early good work will have to be repeated to get these consumers to resume consumption if they sacrifice it now to save money,” Whalley added.

Dannon, which has kept its foot on the gas, earlier this year launched Activia drinks and Activia Fiber.

But no matter who’s producing the products containing probiotics, they need to be mindful of their claims. In April, it was reported that The Dannon Co. was working on a settlement of complaints filed by customers questioning the health claims made on behalf of its Activia and DanActive yogurts.
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