Healthy gut, healthy mind? Here’s what your customers need to know

May 10, 2023

On their own, gut health and mental health are both on consumers’ radars, but it turns out these two things also share a strong connection. Learn why – and where the opportunities lie for your business, as a result.

Not so long ago, the term “gut health” meant “digestive health” and not much else. But not anymore – and consumers know it. While two out of three people now acknowledge that gut health is key to achieving overall wellbeing, according to one global consumer survey, 66 per cent of people are interested in digestive health products, irrespective of whether or not they suffer from a digestive problem.   

Specifically, research recently conducted by global market intelligence company, Innova Market Insights, shows that “mood” is one of the top four aspects of health that consumers recognise as being something gut health can influence.   

And they’re right. For one thing, 95 per cent of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that mediates mood – so that too-low levels are associated with depression – is produced in the gastrointestinal tract not the brain. Exactly how much serotonin gets produced by the digestive system may come down to the health of the 1.5kg of gut bacteria that live there.  

So, at a time when consumers are also prioritising their mental wellbeing and when, in the wake of the pandemic, record numbers of Australians need support for their mental health, here are three trends to be across to appeal to the gut-health-savvy consumer.  

  1. Familiarity is powerful. The Innova research shows that when it comes to gut health, the more familiar consumers are with an ingredient, the more they trust and believe in its effectiveness. And that means one thing: probiotics. These aren’t new but in terms of gut health, they’re well understood. In fact, at least 67 per cent of Australians are familiar with the role of probiotics, which are the live bacteria found naturally in the gut, as well as in some foods (particularly fermented and fortified foods) and gut-health supplements. 
  1. Emerging gut-health ingredients are growing their profiles. The three to know about are prebiotics, synbiotics and postbiotics. Awareness about prebiotics – a type of dietary fibre that feeds “good” gut bacteria – is growing, with one in three Australians already identifying them as being capable of delivering specific health benefits. And, according to the CSIRO, increasing intakes of prebiotic fibres is likely to be more effective for improving gut health than taking a probiotic. 

Meanwhile, synbiotics (which are gut-health products that contain both prebiotics and probiotics) and postbiotics (which contain the beneficial, gut-friendly waste products that occur when probiotics digest prebiotics) are regarded in trend reports as the innovative gut-health solutions that are gaining ground. And the research is positive. While a 2020 study shows that taking a synbiotic increases both the diversity of gut bacteria and the volume of specific strains that have been linked with health benefits, recent research shows that supplementing with postbiotics pays dividends for health, too. 

  1. Formats matter. Research suggests that among consumers who are interested in improving their gut health, many are more likely to gravitate to food and drink products that provide gut-health benefits over traditional supplements. Why? They’re perceived as being more affordable, easier to “take” and they have a taste advantage, too. 

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