Driven by making difference, Per Rehné (PR), CEO at Clasado Biosciences, talks to Dr Kevin Robinson (KSR) about the prebiotic market and why the prospect of turning a rich portfolio of scientific study into everyday consumer healthcare products that improve health outcomes is a key goal
Education and learning opportunities are crucial when it comes to developing a growing and sustainable business, he says: “Only by growing the organisation and each individual will we successfully be able to deliver on our vision.
KSR: What would you describe as the biggest changes to the nutrition sector and the wider health market in recent times?
PR: There’s no doubt that, during the past few years, the public’s relationship with overall health and well-being has changed; these shifts will continue to influence product development now and into the future. Fundamentally, we’re becoming more engaged and connected with our own health.
Individuals have been getting steadily more proactive regarding matters of health and well-being … but there is a heightened sense of speed now. Of course, gut health is central to these important conversations and prebiotics are giving health and nutrition formulators the opportunity to connect with this highly active market.
KSR: What makes a prebiotic ingredient so exciting to work with?
PR: Prebiotics pose an exciting prospect to product developers for many reasons, not least because of their versatility. This flexibility means that it’s never been easier to innovate new product lines and create new categories. With prebiotics, we can break new ground in health and nutrition.
We’ve seen this with a high profile “prebiotic cereal” launch from one of the world’s best-known breakfast brands and the possibilities are many. For health and nutrition companies, the opportunity is clear; prebiotics can simultaneously play a role in improving existing health issues and also support health prophylactically.
KSR: Why is it important to look after our gut health?
PR: The microbiome — the community of trillions of bacteria in the gut — is becoming increasingly understood as science advances. Sometimes referred to as one of the body’s “control centres,” the gut microbiome contains an ever-shifting composition of beneficial and non-beneficial bacteria.
So-called “good’ gut bacteria are understood to influence key areas of health, including digestive and gastrointestinal health, immune function and cognitive or mental health. Ongoing studies are finding that these effects go even further, potentially supporting the body in areas such as cardiovascular health and even athletic performance.
KSR: Prebiotics are becoming increasingly popular in numerous segments of the health and nutrition industry. What recent developments have led to this?
PR: With soaring gut health awareness and the continued prominence of gastrointestinal health concerns for consumers around the globe, prebiotics provide a new path for product development and formulation. As the studies behind their influence and efficacy continue, they can be consumed in an ever-increasing variety of ways.
In addition, the science behind prebiotics is advancing at speed. Bimuno GOS, for example, is now backed by more than 100 scientific publications, including more than 20 clinical trials. Consumers are looking for products they can trust, which gives priority — and a very strong value proposition in today’s market — to ingredients such as science-backed prebiotics.
KSR: What benefits do branded ingredients have compared with their counterparts?
PR: Formulators can rely on branded ingredients to bring strong scientific evidence to the table, which helps to drive consumer trust. For instance, a recent Global Prebiotic Association (GPA) consumer survey found that shoppers view branded ingredients as higher quality and were more inclined to trust them.
There is a stronger association between scientific efficacy, safety and branded ingredients.
Bimuno GOS is a strong example. Clasado Biosciences focused on developing and advancing the ingredient and its scientific portfolio, which our customers benefit from. Businesses have more choice than ever when it comes to prebiotic ingredients but, as the most studied variety of its kind, Bimuno GOS stands out.
Depending on how it’s used, Bimuno GOS can access certain health claims. In the US, for example, it has a variety of structure and function claims that can be made on packaging that are supported by scientific evidence.
Importantly, in terms of new product development, Bimuno GOS has a very low efficacious dose (starting at just 1.37 g). This means that only a small quantity is needed during formulation, adding to its agility.
KSR: What are the biggest opportunities for prebiotics?
PR: With its versatility and stability, there is almost no limit in terms of how Bimuno GOS can be used in terms of health and nutrition applications. We see growth in daily supplements and functional foods, but we’re also looking further afield to areas such as dairy products, synbiotics and athletic health products.
In the not-too-distant future, we will see prebiotics play a more important role in healthcare categories such as FSMP (Food for Specific Medical Purposes) and as adjuncts to pharmaceutical therapies.
Prebiotics have a key role to play in enhancing nutritional profiles, as well as their positive impact on digestive health and the gut microbiome. With an extensive range of potential applications, there really is no limit to the potential of prebiotics, which is an extremely exciting prospect when considering the future of mainstream health and nutrition.
KSR: What is a key challenge for prebiotics to overcome?
PR: For us, it’s public awareness. Although gut health is increasingly being understood by the consumer, it still seems to be an overlooked fact that everything we eat fuels every cell in our body, or not, depending on what we eat and how we support the optimal function of our gut.
The development of the category is rapid and its trajectory is impressive, but there is still a knowledge gap to be closed. A lot of work is being done by awareness bodies such as the Global Prebiotics Association (GPA), of which Clasado is a board level member, but we must remember that the category is still relatively new.
We must also stay aware of changing regulatory conditions. At present, we are very aware about what we can and cannot say “on pack” to meet stringent legislation; and, with the category still growing at speed, we may see a lot of change in a short space of time.
As ever, Clasado takes a keen interest in these matters and stands ready to help our customers to access leading prebiotic technology and develop products that connect with the needs of the market.
KSR: How has Clasado Biosciences evolved during the last year?
PR: In line with the rising demand for prebiotics, Clasado has made strong inroads in the global market. This includes strengthening our presence in North America, as well as Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. This includes the addition of extra team members to strengthen the commercial team and distribution agreements with new and existing partners.
Across the board, we are seeing significant developments on a global scale in terms of commercialising the scientific portfolio behind Bimuno GOS. This expansion falls in line with audience trends as consumers get more in tune with the importance of gut health. The rising awareness of its influence in areas such as immune health is only set to accelerate this growth.
KSR: What does the future have in store?
PR: At Clasado, it’s about creating the most scientifically backed and accessible prebiotic ingredients and converting these into viable consumer products that play a part in the future of health and nutrition formulation.
For the wider prebiotic category, the future holds a lot of commercial opportunity as the category’s borders expand and an ever-increasing number of products become prime candidates for enhancement through prebiotics.