The last few years have provided exiting new evidence about the close link between immunity and digestive health. It’s now believed 70% of our inner defence system is situated in the small and large intestine. The inner defence system can be supported by selective nutrients and by beneficial gut microorganisms (Bifidobacteria are known for this) in all phases of life, from pregnancy and infancy, through to old age.
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt across the globe, 64% of consumers say that they are now more conscious about their immune health, according to a FMCG Gurus Survey in July last year.
Even consumers who previously deemed themselves to have a good immune system are now questioning their vulnerability to disease and illness. With more than half of the European consumers associating prebiotics with immune health, also according to FMCG data, there are windows of opportunity for producers who can harness these concerns, believes BENEO.
The supplier has opted for chicory root fibres: natural, plant-based dietary fibres extracted by hot water from the chicory root and, at the same time, proven prebiotics.
Anke Sentko, Vice President Regulatory Affairs & Nutrition Communication at BENEO, claimed chicory root fibres support a healthy gut microbiota by selectively promoting the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gut.
“Research analysis by systematic reviews over the past 10 years demonstrate the various directions of health support offered by prebiotic chicory root fibres,” she said. “In addition to digestive health and regularity, blood sugar management, immune health, and improvement of calcium absorption for bone health support are all mentioned.”
Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the headlines and impacted markets around the world, the important issue of well-being had been brought to the fore and highlighted as a major trend, said Sentko. As a result, consumers have already begun to make the link between gut health and overall health and well-being and are more motivated to support their digestive health status and to improve specific health issues.
“We believe that ‘gut health balance’ will continue to develop as a topic for consumers and, not surprisingly due to the current pandemic, so will the focus on boosting the inner defence system and the important role that gut health plays in this as well,” Sentko noted.
That’s because consumers do not currently eat enough fibre per day and most of them are aware of this. European consumers only eat about half the fibre they should. BENEO therefore firmly believes its chicory root fibres also help to enrich consumer goods to bridge the fibre gap.
“Consumers are already well aware that the gut impacts the immune system as part of the wider mega-trend for digestive health and well-being,” added Sentko. For her, this explains why such a large majority of the global population already associates prebiotics with immune health.
What’s more, the microbiota in the gut changes through age if not counteracted by eating gut-friendly enriched foods or drinks. Therefore “it’s only logical to support our gut microbiome with the food they love – prebiotics – and as a result, there’s already a growing interest in ingredients that can support gut and immune health,” we were told.
The increased intake of dietary fibre is supported by public health measures too (e.g., in Nutri-Score and national dietary guidelines). On top of this, with the dietary fibre extracted from the chicory root, ‘a clear and attractive communication on digestive health and regularity support is possible as a related health claims have been granted in the EU’, Sentko observed. Another approved health claim is related to blood glucose management, as chicory root fibre can help to achieve lower rises of blood glucose in consumer products by replacing sugar. “Overall, these health benefits provide opportunities for attractive communications on pack, while also addressing consumer needs,” she said.