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Prebiotic Musings from Probiota 2019

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend and participate in Probiota 2019, held in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ve been able to participate in both the European and North American Probiota series since my time with William Reed and NutraIngredients-USA. It’s been exciting to watch the growth of the franchise as it’s emerged as the largest probiotics gathering worldwide. The series originated from the merger of two events, one focused on probiotics, and the other, Microbiota, focused on the microbiome as a whole. In 2015, when William Reed merged the Probiota program with the International Probiotic Association’s Biannual World Congress, they were onto a formula for success in presenting the intersection of science and the business of probiotics.

Just where prebiotics was really to fit in was a bit less obvious. With over 350 participants, the Copenhagen event was obviously a huge success. Expanding the conversation, where possible, to include a deep dive into the entire microbiome was obviously the way to go. As GrowthWays Managing Partner CEO Mike Bush noted at the event, ‘As a startup looking for capital, put ‘blockchain’ or ‘microbiome’ in your description and add the extra zeros of valuation’. He was describing the buzz and potentially available capital interested in these two subject areas, at the beginning of his panel presentation on Probiota Pioneers.

The depth of new research involving the microbiome (gut, skin, vaginal and overall) and the emergence of the prebiotic category in recent years has meant that the scope of possible discussion has expanded dramatically, making it difficult to cover fully in any 3-day program, even regionally. It was therefore gratifying to be able to host a roundtable discussion in Copenhagen about the emerging prebiotic market opportunity.

The table filled quickly for the hour-long lunch session, with a few disappointed delegates promising to come by after to discuss the category. The conversation was participative, covering the expected range of topics including prebiotic definition, identification of influencers and stakeholders especially narrating successful recent approaches to allopathic practitioners in Eastern Europe using synbiotics, market size and potential, the EU prebiotic environment and emerging prebiotic ingredients and their substantiation.

Interest and engagement on the topic of prebiotics continued the balance of the afternoon and next morning to conclude the event. The final panel was specifically asked about the future potential of prebiotics, with respondents agreeing that potential was significant, but they were less consistent on ‘how far behind’ probiotics it was, with answers varying between two and ten years.

It is quite clear, from both Probiota and from the workshop that the Global Prebiotic Association organized with support from Informa at SupplySide West this past year that this category represents a high growth opportunity globally, is about far more than ‘fiber’, and has an opportunity to become increasingly relevant for more than ‘gut health’ in years to come.