With the season of New Year’s resolutions underway, people are looking for new ways to feel better. The answer may lie in the gut. Gut health refers to the balance of beneficial bacteria living in the human digestive tract. There are about 100 trillion living organisms contained in the gut microbiome—more than the number of human cells in the whole body. We are all born with a unique gut composition that can evolve over our lifetime due to our diet choices and environmental factors. Increasing evidence has linked a healthy gut to benefits such as immunity and reduced cancer risk. However, modern life with its stressors and hyper-sanitation has taken a toll on the gut. As more people understand the value of ‘good bacteria’, they are looking for ways to heal and harmonize their gut.
Gut health can be broken down into a couple basic tenets: prebiotics, which are the food for the gut’s ‘good bacteria’, and probiotics, which are the ‘good bacteria’ themselves. The global probiotics market is projected to be worth $77.09 Billion by 2025, as consumers are increasingly reaching for natural and preventative healthcare alternatives. Fermented food and drink products, which contain live bacteria beneficial for the gut, have also surged in popularity. Fermented foods, like kimchi, saw a 149% increase in mentions on US restaurant menus in 2018. Kombucha sales in the US continue to grow year on year, up 21% in 2019, after 43% growth from 2017 to 2018. Irish-brewed Kombucha brands such as Synerchi and KO have seen an uptake in popularity and investment as the Irish public gets privy to gut health. Last year, Irish health food empire, The Happy Pear, launched a 12-week online Happy Gut course. The Mac Twins of The Gut Stuff have also been a force for education in the UK and Ireland. With their ‘millennial pink’ branding and gut puns, they have created a cult following of young people online by democratizing the science jargon and offering people a friendly way into a gut health-focused lifestyle.
Kellogg’s has made digestive wellness a focus, with its Happy Inside range – breakfast products made with probiotics, prebiotics and a boost of fiber. Many brands in the dairy industry have also made a play for gut health, as products like natural yogurt and kefir are inherently gut-positive foods. However, gut-health claims have become so popular that they are showing up in less obvious places like chocolate, snacks, and alcoholic beverages. Probiotics have also began cropping up in categories as dissimilar as skincare, pet food, and household cleaning.
With the amount of information to sift through, making healthy choices today can be a daunting feat. Gut health is appealing for its ability to make things simple. It gives people a holistic approach to their health goals and a toolkit for evaluating all their food and drink choices. Mental health will be the next frontier, as science investigates the connection between the gut and the brain. Gut health is a broad and expanding opportunity for brands. As more people convert to a gut-centric approach to wellness, their appetite for more applications is growing.