Product efficacy and proven claims are the most important consumer purchase motivators regarding buying functional foods with prebiotics, according to a new global survey commissioned with 10,000 consumers in 10 countries by FMCG Gurus, a strategic partner of BENEO.

 Demand for proven prebiotics

Looking at the expectations of respondents who already buy prebiotics, the research shows that they want products that deliver what they promise and are backed up by science. For three out of four of these consumers, the most important factors when choosing a food or drink containing prebiotics are product efficacy, health claims, and science-based claims. Interestingly, despite the cost-of-living crisis, the price aspect lags behind these considerations with 55% stating that as an important purchase factor. Having a closer look at which specific health claims are in demand, ‘digestive health’ and ‘improved general wellbeing’ (73% each) are among the most relevant for those buying food and drinks containing prebiotics.


Prevention is better than the cure

The survey also demonstrates that consumers are shifting towards a ‘disease prevention’ rather than a ‘disease cure’ mindset. In fact, almost half (48%) of those buying food and drinks containing prebiotics were not suffering from any symptoms when they first started using them. A health-supporting diet is high on the agenda for more and more consumers. In line with this trend, interest in food and drinks that are known to boost health increased significantly in the overall global population – from 26% in 2019 to 42% in 2021.

Moreover, two-thirds of overall respondents now see immune health as the key area for them to address in the coming year and, when it comes to promoting it, three out of four (74%) understand the importance that digestive health plays for a strong defense.

 The survey also indicates that consumers are becoming familiar with prebiotics in general as well as with particular prebiotic ingredients. The survey demonstrates that more than half of respondents (54%) are aware of prebiotics and nearly 1 in 3 of those consumers know ‘chicory root fiber’ and ‘inulin’ are prebiotics, making them the most recognized prebiotic ingredients.

 Inulin and oligofructose (short-chain inulin) are the only plant-based prebiotics available, and they belong to the very few proven prebiotics according to ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics). In total, more than 150 high-quality human intervention studies have been published on chicory root fiber, delivering strong evidence for distinct physiological benefits. Additionally, BENEO’s chicory root fiber inulin has an authorized EU health claim concerning digestive health and regularity support that can be communicated on-pack. In addition, a number of structure and function claims are possible when using BENEO’s chicory root fibers in the United States. 

“The fact that reliable claims, backed by science, are top of consumers’ wish lists, reinforces the approach we have taken over the past 20 years in supporting scientific prebiotic research for our ingredients," Myriam Snaet, Head of Market Intelligence and Consumer Insights at BENEO, explains. "As a result, we are well-placed to meet the growing consumer demand for provable prebiotics. Also, thanks to our multi-million euro investment program over recent years, we can comfortably meet increasing demand.”

Michael Hughes, Head of Research and Insight at FMCG Gurus, adds, “The results of our latest consumer survey clearly show that to attract consumers, the focus for manufacturers should be on delivering value for money. Using ingredients that allow for on-pack claims is important and it enables manufacturers to be successful with premium-positioned products, even in these tough financial times.