Innovating beyond probiotics: combining complementary nutritious ingredients

Published: 2-Feb-2022

In 2020, e-commerce products that paired probiotics with nutritious ingredients outpaced the traditional probiotics category by more than 50% … and that trend isn’t changing in 2022, write Daniel Eicholtz, Leader for Tech Services and Piloting, and Brittany Lisanti, Global Project Manager, IFF Health

This year, you can expect to see an even bigger market demand for probiotic products combined with one or more nutritious ingredients. However, pairing ingredients with probiotics is no easy feat and can lead to challenges with shelf-life. To help brand owners navigate this challenge, we’ve been rigorously testing probiotic strains with complementary ingredients to ensure stability.

A combination that caught our attention was HOWARU Calm paired with Sharp-PS. The strain within HOWARU Calm, Lacticaseibasillus paracasei Lpc-37 (Lpc-37), demonstrated its ability in a clinical trial to reduce perceived stress and lower the systolic blood pressure of participating women (after they completed the Trier Social Stress Test).

Containing soy phosphatidylserine, Sharp PS plays a crucial role in the structure and function of the brain and helps to maximise end-product benefits with its ability to prevent memory loss and cognitive decline.

Confirming the combination

Our initial goal in pairing these ingredients was to help brand owners meet both market demand for combination products as well as brain-health supplements. As new research continues to highlight the microbiota-gut-brain axis, we’ve seen heightened consumer interest regarding impacting cognitive health via the gut. We wanted to develop a combination that paired brain health benefits with a balanced mood and overall improved mental well-being.

Although we researched a variety of ingredients, Sharp PS was ultimately identified as an excellent candidate for probiotic combination — owing to its naturally low moisture content and reduced probability of negative interactions with the probiotic.

After testing formulas under different storage conditions and delivery formats, we successfully confirmed that the stress-reducing probiotic strain Lpc-37 can successfully be combined with memory boosting Sharp-PS. For the past 18 months, we’ve been running a stability study with both ingredients and are happy to report a lack of effect on probiotic stability.

Innovating beyond probiotics: combining complementary nutritious ingredients

When performing stability research like this, we utilise various inhibition studies so we can test ingredients prior to formulation to evaluate both the anticipated and actual drop in cell count. Although this is standard industry practice, not all strain suppliers provide this information. Prior to investing in extensive testing, this insight gives brand owners confidence in their winning combination.

Key factors of strain stability

We’ve just scratched the surface with Sharp PS and Lpc-37 as there are numerous ingredient combinations for brand owners to consider. However, just because two ingredients’ mechanisms of action complement each other, it doesn’t mean they make a good combination.

Probiotics are sensitive to heat, water, pH and, potentially, even oxygen, so dietary supplements must be carefully crafted to ensure stability at each stage of development. Brand owners formulating new probiotic combination should consider three key factors.

  • Probiotics are living organisms and must remain in a state of suspended animation before consumption, which is done using processes such as freeze drying. As water can activate the organisms, formulators should consider drying ingredients with a high moisture content prior to blending. These processes ensure the probiotic reaches consumers in its most active, optimal form.
  • Does the additional ingredient contain any antagonistic properties? For example, cranberry could add value add to a women’s health probiotic; however, the antibacterial properties of cranberries are potentially capable of killing the friendly bacteria strains and decreasing shelf-life.
  • Various formats could potentially impact strain stability. In a very dry form, such as powders, certain ingredients that you expect to have antagonistic effects … might not. However, forms that are more moisture inherent, such as oil drops, could activate interactions, making antagonistic properties more prevalent.

Unfortunately, there is no quick way to assess whether a combination or delivery format will affect the shelf-life of a probiotic. Although long-term studies are generally needed to verify a combination’s lasting stability, a supplier with extensive experience will be able to provide guidance and recommendations in terms of potential combinations.

Formulators should take heed to confirm this information with any potential supplier; otherwise, they risk developing products that won’t deliver the promised benefits. Confirming the potential impact of dosage form, packaging and environmental factors on the supplement are also crucial.

By working with a partner who understands the importance of strain stability, and has the technical expertise to back it up, brand owners will be well equipped to deliver novel combination products that meet consumer demand.

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