Featured Category: Milk breaks the probiotic barrier

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6 mins read

Milk isn’t usually associated with gut health… well, not positively anyway. Just ask anyone with lactose intolerance. But there are some interesting launches in the wings to perhaps alter this perception for some.

Probiotics-fortified milk

Just a couple of months ago, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Good Culture churned out a rather unexpected innovation: lactose-free UHT milk fortified with probiotics. Every 12 ounce serving of this milk is said to have 1 billion probiotic cultures, specifically the BC30 probiotic or Bacillus coagulans GBI-30, 6068. DFA is the largest dairy cooperative in the US and Good Culture is a cultured dairy products company with a focus on simple ingredients and gut-friendly products.

Source: Good Culture

This product is rather unique because it’s rare for milk to play host to probiotic cultures. In fact, Good Culture and DFA’s Probiotic Milk is said to be the first ever ultra-pasteurized milk with added probiotics. The lactose-free milk first undergoes ultra-high temperature processing, which enhances its shelf life, and only then is the probiotic ingredient added; probiotics don’t survive high temperatures. DFA says the probiotic properties will not be compromised as long as the milk is not heated past 158°F or 70°C. Good Culture Probiotic Milk is also said to support digestive and immune health.

Within the dairy category in the US, probiotics is a growing theme and has broadly a positive sentiment from consumers, according to Ai Palette data. Mentions of probiotics have also seen steady growth over the last four years, and is forecast to continue growing in the coming 12 months as well.

Consumer engagement with probiotics, dairy, USA

Probiotic Sentiment probiotic Probiotic- Trend Growth

Ai Palette Foresight Engine (as of June 2023)

Health is the leading driver for this growth and top associations with health are protein, gut health, digestive health, and immunity.

Source: Ai Palette Foresight Engine (as of June 2023)


Back to basics

DFA and Good Culture’s probiotic milk addresses a couple of basic, but pertinent, issues.

  • The first has to do with taste. Most cultured dairy available at present is the result of fermentation, which tends to impart a sour or tangy flavor to the final product. This flavor profile is not always popular among consumers, but they still want the nutrition of dairy. Despite the best efforts of plant-based milk alternatives, dairy-based milk is still pretty popular and continues to be a staple in many households. The probiotics just add to the already nutrition-rich profile of milk. That it is lactose-free further adds to its potential appeal to a wider audience.

From the previous graph, we see that taste is actually a distant second (to health) when it comes to drivers for probiotics in dairy in the US. Delving further into taste, we saw that sweetness is the most popular choice by a long shot, perhaps an indication that most products may be looking to tone down the tartness.

  • The second has to do with affordability. Products that have strong gut health associations among consumers, like kefir and kombucha, tend to be on the pricey side, putting them out of reach of many for regular consumption. But milk as a staple is both accessible and affordable for most, and probiotics-fortified milk may become an affordable alternative to the more bougie kefir and kombucha, something that DFA highlights as well.

Our data also shows that consumers mention price more frequently in the case of kefir and kombucha, than in the case of standard dairy products.

Source: Ai Palette Foresight Engine (as of June 2023)

At the moment, Good Culture’s milk is more expensive than your everyday standard milk, but it costs less than organic milks. Since it’s the first of its kind, the higher price stands to reason for the time being.

For probiotic milk to take off among consumers, who are more used to cultured dairy as the vehicles for probiotics, will require Good Culture (and subsequent brands) to put the taste and price aspects of the product front and center, while also highlighting the all-day potential of the milk. Probiotic dairy at present – it’d be fair to say that it’s most likely yogurt or yogurt-based – is primarily a morning consumable, either with breakfast or as a snack in the US. However, there is probably scope to increase consumption of probiotic dairy with the launch of milk during other parts of the day, perhaps with hot drinks, desserts, smoothies, or just plain milk.

Source: Ai Palette Foresight Engine (as of June 2023)

New tech will push forth probiotic milks

Now that milk has crossed the probiotics barrier, we expect to see a lot more probiotic milks on the horizon, especially since research into this has been going on for a while.

AnaBio Technologies, for example, has a patented technology that allows probiotics to survive heat treatment, which means that probiotics can be added to food and drink that needs to be heated. AnaBio’s technology is based on microencapsulation, wherein a protective coating is created around the probiotics at a microscopic level. This technique helps make probiotics-fortified food and drink that is shelf stable and does not need to be refrigerated, which is currently how all such products are available. The company’s probiotics offering contains 1 billion colony forming units (CFU) per dose at a cost of around EUR0.02, making this quite cost-effective. The microencapsulated solution can withstand temperatures of 140°C or 284°F.

AnaBio has said it is working with a number of dairy companies across the globe to create probiotics-fortified shelf-stable/ambient products. Broadly, microencapsulating probiotics offers advantages of price, broader use cases, and takes products out of the fridge, which has sustainability benefits as well as widens availability.

Another advantage of microencapsulation that AnaBio hasn’t mentioned is that it could protect the probiotics from gastric acids, a common challenge linked to the oral consumption of probiotics.

Are you gonna gut my whey?

We’re continuing with the dairy and gut health intersection, though this innovative product isn’t exactly dairy. It’s… dairy-adjacent, shall we say? And it’s not exactly gut health, but it may be gut health-adjacent.

US-based startup Superfrau has introduced a functional carbonated soft drink whose hero ingredient is dairy-based. If you’d like to delve deeper into how CSD startups are disrupting the space with gut health claims, download our white paper “Gutsy Bubbles.

Source: Superfrau

Source: Superfrau

The company uses upcycled liquid whey which is a byproduct of Greek yogurt production, and to highlight its sustainability creds, the product is called “upcycled fizzy whey drink”. Even though this can’t be called a protein drink, whey does provide 3g of protein.

This range of drinks also includes a lactase enzyme that helps to break down lactose from the whey into simpler sugars. This allows the product to carry a “lactose-free” claim, while also highlighting its “good for gut health” credentials. In addition, the company says it has lactic acid, which functions as a prebiotic.

In addition to these claims, Superfrau also contains broad-spectrum electrolytes, including calcium, magnesium, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin, vitamin B, and zinc. These electrolytes are said to provide natural energy and can be an alternative to caffeine. In terms of taste profile, it’s slightly sweet and tart, and has a whole host of flavors.

Honestly, this product has so many positioning claim options, it’s hard to focus on just one USP, something the company’s founder has also admitted.

Oh, let’s not forget that the founder is an American Woman (with so many apologies to her and Lenny Kravitz).