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While yogurt represents the largest probiotic food product category, health-oriented companies such as Stonyfield Farm offer several strains of probiotics plus inulin for a wide demographic , women, infants, and kids. Lifeway Foods introduced a colostrum kefir and Soytreat, a cultured soymilk drink. Yoplait and Glanbia joined forces to launch Everybody for everybody. There is even an entry in the high-protein sector from Brown Cow Farms called Yoghurt Quencher. New York-based Queensboro Farms recently launched a beverage PERQ, which is tailored to women, and PERQ-T, which is intended for the elderly.
More than a hundred companies in the U.S. market probiotic products in supplement form, including ConAgra, which produces Culturelle, a dietary supplement containing Lactobacillus GG in a capsule form. The new generation of products includes the lunch-pack market, many of which are targeted towards school children. Yakult and Actimel, with national reach in the health food market, are poised for mainstream North American distribution within two years.
Simply put, "prebiotics" are food for probiotics. A prebiotic is resistant to hydrolysis, digestion and fermentation by microflora in the upper digestive tract. The prebiotic selectively promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the colon and, if possible, suppresses pathogenic bacteria. Procter & Gamble recently filed a series of patents for health drinks with a soluble fiber that meets these criteria.
The term "synbiotic" describes the combination of live microbial probiotics and prebiotic compounds; the combination is designed to promote greater survival of the probiotic, with improved implantation in the colon. Although synbiotics are not yet available commercially, Nestle received a U.S. patent for an ice cream with synbiotic properties. Nestle's product contains probiotic lactic acid bacteria together with prebiotic fiber separated to forestall fermentation until consumption; the probiotics are incorporated in the ice cream and the prebiotic in the chocolate-coated wafer layers.
Consumers and manufacturers are become increasingly aware that the benefits of probiotics go beyond the gut and, as a result, the marketplace is bound to see a wide range of new probiotic products. Already in the making are confections, toothpastes, cosmetics, cheeses and fruit drinks and prepared ready-to-eat foods.
Natasha Trenev, founder of West Lake Village, Calif.-based Natren, pioneered the probiotics field and wrote the probiotic standards adopted by the National Nutritional Foods Association, which were read into the congressional record. Treney holds the largest library of research on probiotics and recently founded the National Institute of Probiotics, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting probiotics research.
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