Food trends following the gut health boom

20 Jun 2024

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Gut health is booming. Globally, 3 out of 4 consumers have an interest in food products that improve gut health according to our worldwide consumer survey. As Foodnavigator says: “the gut health trend is one of the single biggest changes to hit the food and drinks industry in recent decades.” Curious about what innovations in the food industry are being made because of the gut health boom? Find out below.

Global glory for the gut

Our Taste Tomorrow Always-On analysis of online conversations and searches shows that consumers are most interested in gut health in the UK, the US and many European countries such as Italy, Spain, France and Germany. In Argentina, Germany and the UK interest in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is peaking at the moment. According to this Google Trend Data, searches on gut health reached an all-time high this year worldwide:

#HotGirlsHaveStomachIssues and Hack Your Health

The popularity of gut health isn’t just something we see in new product releases. Gut health seems to be everywhere you look. Netflix released the documentary ‘Hack Your Health: The Secrets of Your Gut’ early in 2024, a light-hearted and informative documentary about how important a healthy gut is to our overall well-being.

Discover the key highlights and takeaways from Netflix’s gut health documentary on Puratos.com

Over on TikTok, #HotGirlsHaveStomachIssues was a trending hashtag last year and generated millions of views. Over 627.4K TikTok posts are labeled #guthealth and many social media content creators focus solely on the topic. Dr. Megan Rossi aka The Gut Health Doctor has 520K followers on Instagram and Dr. Joseph Salhab shares his insights as The Stomach Doc with 1.5 million followers on TikTok. In their videos they make learning about gut health fun and the massive amounts of views they rake in show that their followers are gobbling it all up. 

This surge in interest in the microbiome has increased consumer knowledge of their inner workings. The belief that gut health influences mental well-being enjoys widespread acceptance for instance, with 79% of consumers recognizing the connection. That opens many new possibilities for product innovation. Just look at these examples:

1. Sprouted grain bread

Sprouted grains are on the rise! The global market for sprouted grains and seeds is projected to experience an annual growth rate of 8.7% from 2024 to 2031. Sprouted grains benefit from the consumer preference for healthy and natural ingredients. Foods made with sprouted grains are more nutrient-dense, filling and flavorful than unsprouted grain options. 

How it works? Let’s take bread as an example: whole grain breads are made from whole grain flour, which is finely milled wheat kernels. Sprouted grain breads are made by soaking the wheat kernels in water until they begin to germinate, creating a small sprout in the grain. The sprouting process transforms the wheat kernel from nutrient storage into an energy factory. All sorts of enzymes turn on in the grain to unlock the nutrients needed to grow a new plant. Once a little sprout forms, these sprouted whole grains are gently mashed into a dough and baked into a delicious, nutrient-dense bread.

The Canadian Silver Hills Bakery specializes in baked goods made with sprouted grain dough. They claim their bread, bagels, tortillas, and burger buns are easier to digest and high in gut-friendly fibers because of this. The Big 16 bread loaf consists of no less than – you guessed it – sixteen different kinds of seeds and grains for optimal nutrition. Eight of those grains are sprouted: khorasan, barley, rye, buckwheat, yellow corn, brown rice and spelt. 

  2. Tech solutions to improve gut health

The gut microbiome consists of trillions of interacting microorganisms. Thousands of different bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites make up a unique microbiome that influences many aspects of our overall health. No wonder that we’re seeing ever more hyper-personalized gut health solutions.

Technological innovations make it possible to offer a unique treatment for each consumer. Data analytics from wearable technology, tracking food intake, and monitoring symptoms related to digestive health can help offer personalized nutrition and tailored dietary recommendations. We already reported on Zoe back in 2022, an American brand that offers metabolic health testing kits for personalized nutrition. Those kinds of applications are becoming ever more common.

Health brand Immodium has launched its Gut2Know app and food producers are connecting with consumers with free gut health tools as well. Activia's Gut Health Program launched earlier this year, intended to do a gut health check and give tips on how to improve it over time. Research by Danone in Canada pointed out that the majority (57%) of Canadians want to improve their gut health, but don't know how. Almost all Canadians (96%) have a gut health score below 50%. On Activia's website, there’s now a Gut Health Tracker that asks 29 questions to provide a personalized gut health score. The tool also provides science-based advice on maintaining or improving this gut health score over time, such as eating more fiber-rich foods or how to get better sleep.

3. Prebiotic chocolate

Chocolate lovers around the world are cheering as they find out that dark chocolate is an ideal gut-friendly snack. The high amounts of fiber in dark chocolate (70% cacao or more) makes it a great source of prebiotics to feed gut bacteria. A hundred grams of dark chocolate contains between 8 to 11 grams of fiber, compared to just 3 grams for milk chocolate. No wonder many chocolate products are now actively marketed as gut-friendly options. Especially given these statistics from our global Taste Tomorrow consumer survey: 

  • 85% of consumers say fiber has positive effects on digestion

  • 70% of consumers agree biotics are trusted ingredients to improve digestion

Indian snack brand Lil’ Goodness cleverly taps into this trend with its ‘tummy-friendly chocolates’ that are enriched with extra prebiotic fibers. For their Prebiotic Dark Chocolate they use fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) as a prebiotic ingredient, which they claim creates a bar that contains three times more fibers than regular dark chocolate. The result is treats that ‘improve digestion, absorption of nutrients and overall gut functions while helping ward off illnesses’.

4. Inclusive green banana flour crackers

Whole grain and sourdough bread were initially the primary products promoted for their gut-friendly benefits in the baking industry. However, a growing number of snacks are now claiming to support gut health too. Our tracking of online consumer conversations and searches pointed out the following trending items: sourdough fruit Danish, whole grain sourdough pizza, whole grain sourdough cinnamon rolls, fruit-filled sourdough muffins, and whole grain sourdough pretzels.

A new brand tapping into this trend is Fair and Square Crackers. The brand isn’t solely focused on settling the stomach. Founder Alex Duoing also wanted to develop a healthier snack for consumers facing dietary restrictions. “We’re trying to be an inclusive snack brand”, he tells Food Business News

A smart move, as an estimated 20% of the population is affected by food intolerances. The gluten-free and plant-based crackers are made from green banana flour, but Fair and Square Crackers also claims their snacks are ‘free from ingredients known to disrupt your gut’. 

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