nuts and vitamins scattered on a table

Probiotic & Prebiotic Trends to Look for at Expo West

By Kimberly Kawa

Everyone’s talking about pre- and probiotics. Are probiotics the next protein? Are prebiotics the next probiotics? What does sales movement look like in the data, and what should be on your radar at Expo West this year? Through the lens of SPINS’ Product Library attribution and segmentation, we can dive into macro trends around probiotics, prebiotics, and the synergistic combination thereof.


As a primary functional ingredient with a growing consumer base over several years, probiotics refer to bacteria with purported benefits to the digestive and immune systems and, in more recent research, mood and cognitive function. While cultured dairy products are currently a main source of live cultures, we’re now seeing brands marketing shelf-stable forms of probiotics with the same benefits. As a result, we’re seeing it grow in the shelf-stable segment, in categories that include enhanced water, baby food/formula, chocolate candy, snacks, and more. Many shelf-stable grocery products likely feature the spore-forming, lactic-acid-producing bacteria marketed for its probiotic properties once it activates in the gut – the most popular being Bacillus coagulans.

Refrigerated beverages have the highest dollar volume and growth rates for products containing probiotic content, but some emerging segments on our radar for Expo West belong to the shelf-stable side of the grocery department, since it is showing the highest growth rate for probiotic-enhanced items, up 8.9% over the prior year.

Brad’s Plant Based Crunchy Kale snacks, for example, clearly highlight probiotic content on the front label. “Snack with a purpose” is the brand’s motto, and this functional food makes the health claim that it promotes digestive and immune health.



Prebiotics are ingredients that nourish probiotic bacteria to help them proliferate in the gut. Prebiotics currently tell a different story in the data. One emerging area of interest for prebiotics is in the frozen department, where functional, better-for-you dessert indulgences with prebiotic content marketing show triple-digit growth.

Halo Top is a key driver of this trend, as its ice creams contain a chicory root marketed as prebiotic fiber content, natural alternative sweeteners, and a protein boost from milk (in dairy-based flavors) or rice and pea proteins (in newer dairy-free products).










Additionally, there is a growing trend in shelf-stable products that market prebiotic content, and we’re seeing notable innovation in the sweetener segment, including in natural alternative sweeteners like lo han/monkfruit, stevia, and yacon. One brand to consider is Sugar 2.0 with its cane sugar sweeteners, including SKUs with added probiotics, plus newer honey and maple syrup sweeteners launching at Expo West, which are all enhanced with FiberSucré (a prebiotic fiber) or soluble tapioca fiber. The brand promotes these added-fiber formulations to help slow the body’s rate of glucose absorption, a functional benefit of interest to the sugar-conscious shopper in general and specifically to consumers with blood sugar or weight management issues.












The PROTEIN SUPPLEMENTS & MEAL REPLACEMENTS category is growing at 8.6% for products marketing prebiotic content. Organic Gemini’s shelf-stable smoothie mixes feature natural prebiotic fiber from tiger nuts with added pea protein, while Primal Kitchen’s Primal Fuel mixes tout the addition of inulin from chicory root. (Both tiger nuts and chicory were featured in SPINS’ top trend predictions in 2018 and 2017, respectively, and we’re keeping an eye out for more innovation with these ingredients in additional formulations and formats.)


SPINS predicts that products containing prebiotics will pick up sales in 2018, and some categories to look out for at Expo West and in the year ahead include shelf-stable bars, cereal, chips, pretzels and other snacks. With SPINS’ proprietary view to innovation and incubation, our data shows shelf-stable wellness bars and gels with prebiotic content in particular are up in the Natural Channel by 18.3% over the prior year, reaching $8.4 million in total sales and lots of room for continued growth.


Pre- and Probiotics Combined

Probiotics and prebiotic fibers have become such a hot industry topic that the combination thereof is appearing in a growing array of products – a trend that’s worth watching at Expo West. Condiments, enhanced water, frozen desserts, functional beverages, and other naturally cultured products with added prebiotics are some additional areas of interest.









Betty Lou’s daily probiotic bites contain probiotic benefits incorporating GanedenBC30®; additionally, prebiotic dietary tapioca fiber is high up on the ingredient list. This product is also paired with a boost of pea protein.

In the supplement aisle, multi-strain formulas continue to gain appeal thanks to research findings that support this approach to gut health. Established brand Solaray’s latest line of probiotics features 18-24 strains, as well as gender-specific marketing, and it incorporates the prebiotic fiber inulin. Additional new releases in this set are marketed for seniors, urgent care, and weight management.


Banking on parallels to human health trends, pre- and probiotics are also gaining momentum in the pet segment. Across pet foods, treats, and other wellness products such as supplements, pre- and probiotic combinations show impressive sales growth of 31.6% over the prior year to an annual market of $32.5 million. I and Love and You is one emerging brand that stands out with dry dog and cat food formulas that feature HAPPY TUMMEEZ prebiotics and probiotics. This Colorado brand also catches our attention with its sustainability practices, including 100% wind-powered headquarters.












Only SPINS’ Product Library’s proprietary attribution can provide you with a granular look at the evolving and nuanced health & wellness trends transforming retail today. Want to know more? Meet us at booth 552 at Expo West, or contact your SPINS rep or email [email protected] to dig deeper into data on probiotics, prebiotics, and other hot retail topics affecting your business.


SPINSscan Natural and Specialty Gourmet (proprietary), SPINScan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI), 13 Quads Ending 2018-Jan-28.