According to a recent Beverage Industry report, probiotic beverages are the hottest bottled drinks to hit grocery store shelves, and claim to do everything from detoxifying the body to giving you a boost of energy.
The word “probiotics” has its origins in two words that essentially mean “for life.” Often referred to as friendly bacteria, probiotics are live microorganisms similar or identical to those found naturally in your body, and often they can provide a number of health benefits. For example, the Harvard School of Medicine points to evidence suggesting that foods and supplements containing probiotics help treat or prevent illness, as well as contribute to a healthier lifestyle.
Joël Lotode, Technical Sales Manager, Fresh Dairy Products at SPX Food and Beverage explains how SPX is benefitting from this fast-growing product category in the dairy industry.
Why are probiotic drinks gaining such global popularity?
Today, there is a growing emphasis on leading healthier, longer lives and a strong focus on diet and nutrition. With growing global research and public awareness pointing to the reported health benefits of probiotics, which includes improved digestive and immune system health, probiotic drinks have become an increasingly popular and convenient way for people to boost their probiotic consumption.
Probiotic drinks are typically dairy-based beverages with a consistency similar to milk, and are often positioned as drinkable yogurts coming in a wide range of flavors. Some of these probiotic drinks reportedly contain as many as 8-10 billion live cultures.
What areas of the world are seeing the most significant growth in demand for these types of drinks?
In the United States, probiotics are found in yogurt, while in other places around the world, such as Europe, China and Japan, a number of foods and drinks are being supplemented with probiotics and are growing in popularity. In fact, according to the research firm Euromonitor, global sales of probiotic drinks could potentially reach $42 billion by the year 2016.
Probiotic drinks have traditionally been popular in Japan, but they are growing in popularity in other markets, including Europe and North America. The strongest growth we are seeing has been in markets where probiotic drink producers have been increasing their distribution efforts. These markets include the Americas, Western Europe, Russia and China. However, high cost due to limited production facilities remains a barrier to further growth. By introducing a simplified, regional solution, the cost of distributing the drinks can potentially be reduced.
Does SPX have experience designing and installing the processing systems needed to produce probiotic drinks?
Yes, SPX has been designing, building and installing yogurt processing systems since 2012. Much of our general dairy processing experience translates directly into the engineering and systems expertise needed to produce probiotic drinks.
For example, in 2012, we worked with Bright Dairy & Food in China with the development of their new dairy plant in Shanghai under a $40 million contract. More recently, we worked with Yakult to help open their new probiotic drink production plants in Guangzhou, China and Fountain Valley, California.
Are there any unique challenges or aspects to these systems compared to other dairy processing systems?
Probiotic drink production requires systems incorporating ultraclean design rules. Adhering to this can be difficult when you are dealing with a mix of sweetened water and fermented milk combined with a long incubation time. But we manufacture all of the necessary probiotic drink processing equipment and have a proven track record of successfully designing full line production systems.
Is this a particularly strong area of opportunity for SPX moving forward?
Yes, this is a high-growth segment in the industry and a key area of potential growth moving forward. We plan to retain our leading position in this segment as part of our overall growth strategy. I think we will continue to see more food and dairy companies jumping into this market due growing consumer demand, as well as the relatively low production costs. Probiotic drinks are only comprised of about 30 to 40 percent fermented milk, while the rest is generally made from sweetened water.
Are probiotic drinks a natural extension for producers of other kinds of dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese?
Absolutely. The milk category is seeing a lot of competition these days as consumers now have a lot of options, including soy, almond, coconut as well as traditional dairy milk. So I think dairy producers are going to be looking for anything that gives them a competitive edge, or opens up a new market for them. And probiotics are showing all the signs of a category that is here to stay.