expert insight

ADM's Vaughn DuBow on
Sports Nutrition and the Microbiome

What is the Birdseye view of the microbiome market today?

The microbiome market today shows ongoing growth potential, with recent market research predicting that the total business-to-business global microbiome segment, which includes prebiotic and probiotic ingredients for foods, beverages and dietary supplements, will have a CAGR of 8.6% during 2022-20271. Specifically, the prebiotic and probiotic sectors are anticipated to have a CAGR of 9.7% and 4.4% during 2022-2027, respectively1. Additional market research shows that postbiotics are predicted to have a CAGR of 9.3% during 2021-20262.

Consumers are increasingly aware of the role their gut microbiome plays in their everyday well-being, as they proactively look for nutrition products that support their physical and emotional wellness. Globally, 58% of consumers perceive a connection between the function of the bacteria in the gut to wider aspects of well-being3. As they seek greater control over their personal health, consumers – including sports and active nutrition consumers – are looking for gut microbiome-supporting solutions and offerings to meet individual health and wellness goals.

Further, with expanding focus on the microbiome, there are new white spaces emerging in microbiome support for muscle growth and skin health, as well as cognition, mood and focus. Each of these areas demonstrate how the microbiome space has grown, and points to where it will continue to move toward in the coming years.

What do you see trending as far as research in microbiome health?

Research around the complex ecosystem of the gut microbiome continues to accumulate, including a rapidly growing body of evidence pointing to how the gut microbiome can support overall well-being, in addition to specific aspects of health, from immune function to cognition, mood, skin health and more. As such, food and beverage offerings that incorporate microbiome-supporting solutions have the potential to support consumers’ physical, mental and emotional wellness goals.

Markedly, research shows that 63% of consumers state they are interested in food and drink products that are customized to meet their individual needs4. Plus, with gut health continuing to become the center of consumers’ wellness approach, a wider range of shoppers are attracted to offerings with gut microbiome-supporting solutions, including prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics. Bringing new microbial strains with targeted attributes into the fold can further elevate emerging offerings.


How about finished products trends in dietary supplements and functional foods and beverages?

What once was a category consisting mainly of protein shakes and bars with classic, ever-popular flavors like vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, the sports and active nutrition category is now rapidly expanding and offering new and exciting formats with enticing flavors. Consumers within this space are not only seeking better-for-you foods and beverages, but they’re also interested in fun, tasty and portable formats such as gummies, confections, bites, clusters and more in trending flavors, such as botanical, citrus and dessert-type flavors.

Key to developing a wide array of functional applications will be specialized microbial strains that retain functionality through different processing environments. We expect to see a rise in the use of robust biotic solutions like postbiotics and spore-forming probiotics. We also foresee that new microbiome-supporting solutions for the sports nutrition category will continue to grow, as more consumers make the link between the gut and overall wellness. Particularly, the functional dairy industry is expanding as it merges with the active nutrition space – bringing in consumers from all walks of life. As such, there is a growing demand for both traditional and alternative dairy products with prebiotics, probiotics or postbiotics that can be used during different consumption opportunities throughout the day, such as for pre- and post-workout shakes or as an afternoon boost.

At the same time, we anticipate more targeted, personalized nutrition options for children. New products hitting the market are focusing on the formats, flavors and colors that appeal to young athletes and help support the everyday lifestyles of active children. However, there is room and demand for innovation. Specifically, as parents become more aware of the importance of supporting their own microbiomes, they will look for products that do the same for their kids. Examples include products packed with plant protein blends along with functional ingredients like probiotics and prebiotic fiber.


What about sports nutrition and the microbiome – in your opinion, do you think this is a category that we need to keep our eyes on?

The sports nutrition category has transformed into the wider active nutrition space, evolving alongside consumers’ behavior shifts. Active nutrition consumers include people of all life stages and lifestyles who aim to support their body’s fitness capabilities and overall well-being. Research shows that 53% of respondents in a global consumer survey classified themselves as active nutrition consumers5. As active nutrition consumers seek out products that focus on specific areas of wellness, we anticipate that consumers will continue to show their understanding and need for microbiome-supporting solutions that support their specific needs. For instance, many active nutrition consumers are interested in products that may support digestive health, emotional well-being and immune function5, and they increasingly believe that a healthy gut is a root of wellness5.

As a result, consumers are growing more aware of gut microbiome-supporting ingredients, and they’re interested in seeing them in their active nutrition purchases. For example, we bring our gut microbiome-supporting strains together to create blends that are specifically targeted to support different areas of wellness. Notably, our recently launched active lifestyle blend incorporates ES1 (Bifidobacterium longum CECT 7347), BPL4 (Lactobacillus casei CECT 9104) and BPL15 (Lactobacillus rhamnosus CECT 8361), and it has shown to support certain biomarkers related to post-exercise oxidative stress6. This blend also provides formulation flexibility, delivering both functionality and convenience for the active nutrition consumer.

Additionally, our BPL1™ (Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CECT 8145) and its heat-treated counterpart, heat-treated BPL1™, are biotics with scientific evidence on factors relevant to metabolic health and on measures of body composition7. As heat-treated BPL1™ contains non-viable microorganisms, it can withstand harsh processing conditions like high heat and pasteurization, making it ideal for active nutrition formulations, including functional beverages, gummies, stick packs, cookies and fermented milks.

Similarly, our spore-forming probiotic, DE111® (Bacillus subtilis), retains functionality through challenging processing conditions that may otherwise damage conventional lactic acid bacteria probiotics. Numerous clinical trials have been conducted with DE111® in several areas of wellness, including digestive health8 and immune function9. The effects of DE111® were also examined during the offseason training of collegiate athletes, with results showing decreased body fat percentage in females10, and a decrease in circulating TNF-α in males11.

Dietary fiber also continues to be an on-trend and the number one ingredient consumers want to add to their diets for reasons like digestion, weight management and satiety3. ADM/Matsutani LLC’s Fibersol®, a line of soluble dietary fiber ingredients, is helping to meet this need. Supported by over 30 years of extensive clinical research, Fibersol® has shown to support factors relevant to gut and digestive health, with clinical studies indicating that it promotes the growth of gut microbes that are positively associated with health12,13. Plus, at 3.75 grams per serving, a clinical study showed Fibersol® may help nourish intestinal flora and support the intestinal tract environment14.


How do you view the category changing in 5 years?

The gut microbiome is and will continue to be an important aspect of health and wellness, having captured the attention of both the scientific community and the general public as we enter the next frontier of wellness support.Emerging trends and developments in the microbiome arena – including in physical support for muscle mass, as well as within the “gut-brain axis” and “gut-skin-axis” – have created widespread global consumer interest, as well as a market ripe with opportunity and high growth potential.

For example, knowledge on how information is transmitted from the gut to the brain and back continues to expand. Recent research about the “gut-brain axis” supports the connection to the gut microbiome with cognition and mood support, which can be important part of supporting overall well-being for athletes and the everyday active nutrition consumer alike. Researchers at the University of Oxford published clinical trial results analyzing changes in psychological processing and measurements of low mood using Bio-Kult®’s multispecies probiotic supplement15. The preliminary study is an exciting development, providing further evidence that specific microbial strains are connected to gut and brain function.

In addition to the gut, the second largest ecosystem of microbes in the human body is found on the skin. Researchers are actively investigating how bacteria found on the skin and within the gut may be interconnected, opening up more opportunities for research and innovation for next-generation skincare products that incorporate microbiome-supporting solutions and ingredients, like probiotics. ADM developed probiotic formulations that may show positive benefits on microbiome composition and skin health support through human clinical trials. Our two probiotic blends – AD blend and Smooth Skin blend – show the potential to support different aspects of skin health16,17. Specifically, the AD blend may help provide support for skin vitality and clear skin and help improve skin health.

Further discovery in the microbiome space may lead to exciting breakthroughs that could impact physical, mental and emotional well-being in the next five years and beyond.

Read more about digestive health and sports nutrition in Move Nutrition's Quarterly: The Gut Performance Connection

1Mordor Intelligence, Global Probiotic & Prebiotic Reports, 2022
2Frost & Sullivan, 2023 Global Growth Opportunities for Nutrition & Wellness, Postbiotic CAGR 2021-2026
3ADM Outside Voice℠
4FMCG Gurus, Personalized Nutrition Report, 2021
5FMCG Gurus, Overview of the Sports Nutrition Market and the Growth of the Active Nutrition Consumer, October 2021
6Macarro, MS; et al. (2021) Antioxidants. 10(2): 323
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11Townsend, J.; et al. (2018). Sports (Basel). 6(3):70
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13Burns, A. (2018) Nutrition Research, 60, 33-42
14Mai, V., et al. (2022) Nutrients. 14(11):2192
15Baião, R; et al. (2022) Psychological Medicine,1-11.
16Navarro-López, V., et al. (2019) Acta Derm Venereol. 99: 1078 -84
17Navarro-López, V. et al. (2018) JAMA Dermatology. 154: 37–43

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