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Superior Bacteria

20 February 2020 by Food&HotelAsia

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By: Asian Consumer Intelligence

Lactic acid remains the key ingredient being used to support the gut microbiome across a wide range of food and beverage releases in Japan, one of the most forward countries globally in this category.

With gut condition still topping health priorities among consumers, Japanese brands have really been experimenting more in terms of the types of products they include gut-cleansing bacteria. Yogurt-type offerings tend to be at the forefront of the gut microbiome release curve, since it’s easy to incorporate lactic acid seamlessly into these products and consumer correlations between health and yogurts is now intrinsically linked. But throughout 2019, Japanese brands have provided consumers with even more choice of how they obtain good bacteria as part of their everyday eating, from soup to biscuits, and granola to gummy sweets.

Purunpurun Qoo Lactic acid multi-vitamin yogurt flavored jelly squeeze pack is designed to support children’s health when they are most vulnerable during the winter season with the addition of Vitamin B6 and Niacin. Nissin also released a collaborative grape-flavor lactic acid yogurt drink featuring Thomas the Tank Engine. Takanashi Dairy brought out their ‘Flora’ drink, which contains Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG to keep skin moisturized. Rose extract and honey are used to sweeten the drink and hide the bitterness of the bacteria. It’s also low in fat, which makes this a solid diet staple for everyday use.

Last year, LOTTE launched its Lactic Acid Bacteria Chocolate range with the aim of making snacking both delicious and functional. It features added Lactobacillus brevis NTT001, and the chocolate is now available with varying levels of bitterness. More recently, LOTTE has branched out to incorporate granola into the line-up (Maple & Almond, and Three Nut flavors). In addition to the microbiome benefits, there’s a higher level of dietary fiber. Unlike the chocolate, which is packaged in a box, the granola comes in a zip-lock carry pouch for convenience. Yamazaki Biscuit’s Cereal Sandwich has a crispy texture using five kinds of grains (rye, whole wheat, glutinous barley, brown rice and oats). Its billed as a sandwiched milk cream containing lactic acid bacteria with a rich mellow taste.

Calbee’s ‘Satsumaimon’ sweet potato chips were first introduced in May 2017, kicking off with ‘Butter’ flavor. This year, there have been two follow-up releases; ‘Maple Sweet Potato’, and ‘Daigaku Imo’ (roasted sweet potato sprinkled with black sesame seeds) flavors. Each of these subsequent variations notably include lactic acid and dietary fiber, while the original does not. There’s also Hikari Miso’s ‘Broccoli and Four Vegetable Soup’ from the new VEGE MISO SOUP series. The ingredients are five kinds of vegetables (broccoli, onion, carrot, cabbage and corn) and sesame seeds. It’s a ‘western-style miso soup’ made with a soy milk base and contains a cheese flavor with vegetables and chicken. From one pot of this soup, consumers obtain around 20 billion nanoECF lactic acid bacteria, which helps improve digestion and bowel movements.

Gummy candy has also seen a boost in terms of functional microbiome-targeting ingredients. For example, Asahi Foods introduced a gummy candy in a ‘Lactic Acid Bacteria’ flavor, with added collagen and hyaluronic acid, whey powder and Aguja extract. The brand also brought out a chewable konnyaku diet snack as part of their ‘Reset Body’ diet series, containing lactic acid and dietary fiber in three flavors; Picked Plum, Salted Chicken, and Soy Sauce. The latest release in Kabaya’s TOUGH GUMMY range, which has been in existence since 2014, is also ‘Lactic Acid Drink Flavor’, but it doesn’t actually contain lactic acid, rather lactic acid flavor, so it isn’t beneficial in the same way as the Asahi options. Still, this demonstrates that there’s a preference for the taste of lactic acid among consumers.

Kewpie added two fresh products to its Verde Whip spread series. Originally, there were three flavors; Choco, Peanut, and Banana Whip. The new releases (Melon Bread / Strawberry), contain lactic acid powder, while the previous iterations do not. One year following the initial release of Ginbis’ ‘Paris Cheese’ potato chip series, the brand decided to boost their offering with an authentic basil and oregano pizza flavor. Just one 36g bag of these chips delivers 10 billion lactic acid bacteria. Finally, there’s ‘AOJIL’ soy milk drink from Kagome, which is blended with four green vegetables containing plant-derived lactic acid, dietary fiber and calcium.

So what? We can expect to see lactic acid still being the core ingredient in products focused on gut health in the near term, but as research progresses, it’s likely that brands will start to incorporate new strains into their releases, and they’ll do so across a consistently expanding range of products. The sheer breadth of products featuring functional benefits, often paired with appealing flavors that fall outside of the usual healthy halo image, provides inspiration to manufacturers looking to innovate products that provide emotional as well as functional benefits, as well as shifts the interpretation of what traditional healthy categories mean.

Find more similar reports on Asian Consumer Intelligence website here.