A guide to crafting the ultimate gut health food and drink

A conversation with Kara Landau, Founding Dietitian, Gut Feeling Consultancy

Greetings, one and all!

In today's ever-evolving world of food and beverages, the way to the consumer’s heart is through their gut. 🦠🥦 A happy, harmonious gut leads to a happy, harmonious customer - and this is becoming a massive business opportunity for brands across the board.

Don’t believe me? Take a gander at the numbers: the global digestive health market was worth USD48.4 billion in 2022 and is estimated to more than double to USD104.4 billion by 2032, according to data from Market.us.

So we reached out to GourmetPro expert Kara Landau, Founding Dietitian at Gut Feeling Consultancy, for product development insights to create effective gut health products.


  • 📰 In The News: Agave cut gin, what weight loss drugs are doing to packaged foods (or not), a 6th sense, and more…

  • 📱Trending with Gen Z: Non-carbonated low ABV drinks, apparently!

  • 🚀 Innovation Deep Dive: Kara Landau, Founding Dietitian at Gut Feeling Consultancy, shares her experience of creating truly effective gut health food and drink.

📰 In The News

A curation of our favorite F&B innovation stories from the week. Can be read in less than a 🧻 break.

  • You know what your gin was missing? Some agave spirit, it turns out. Brockmans Gin has launched a limited edition Agave Cut gin that blends “two distinct distilling cultures and tradition”. 🍸

  • There’s a new challenger in town to all those tempting snacks. Or maybe not. No one seems really sure. All these new weight loss drugs that are hitting the market have analysts in a tizzy about the future of packaged food. Brands, however, appear to be choosing a more measured weight wait-and-watch approach. 😰😌

  • Some bad news for anyone who likes beer, coffee, chocolate, mango, or watermelon – a.k.a. the good things in life… Hotter temperatures are wreaking havoc on these foods in a multitude of ways. Though weirdly enough, wine may be getting better. 🔆☀️

Hot Harvest

Enjoy this artistic feast on display at the Nancy Hoffman Gallery in New York.

📱Trending With Gen-Z

What social media is telling us about Gen-Z’s cravings! Can be enjoyed during an 🛗 ride.

Technically, this is not from social media but it definitely is a consequence of the influence that Gen Z wields on it. A few companies have decided to put the Uncle Ben principle to work – giving all that great power some great responsibility.

Molson Coors is launching a range of canned, low-alcohol drinks (4.4% ABV) aimed at young drinkers. The Happy Thursday range was created in conjunction with a panel of Gen Z consumers (don’t fret, they’re all over 21). It comes in fruity flavors and bright packaging that appeals to this generation – and it is without carbonation.

The company says that this fizz-free range was born out of TikTokers using milk frothers to decarbonize their drinks…

Image source: Molson Coors

Weird. Because this is what’s happening now…

Join us at AFTEA 2023!

GourmetPro is thrilled to be the official media partner for the Agri-Food Tech Expo Asia (AFTEA 2023). This event promises cutting-edge insights into the food-tech world, and we'll be right there capturing all the action. The countdown has begun!

Swing by in Singapore from Oct 31st to Nov 2nd and let's reconnect. We're eager to engage with each client and partner in attendance.

🚀 Innovation Deep Dive: Why gut health is the hottest trend and how to truly benefit from it

Weekly deep dive into an F&B trend. Can be read in less than a 🚋 ride.

Practically anything with a “biotic” in the name is hot property right now.🔥

Innova’s research showed that people don’t want to just see generic “digestive health” or “gut health” claims on products. They want the gory details, particularly the ingredients that will deliver the goods to the gut. In fact, product launches that call out probiotics or prebiotics are on the rise. 📈

However, as you all know well, tossing a few probiotics into the cooking pot does not a gut health product make (though fermenting it might🫧). The realm of gut health product development is as complex as the microbiome itself. Crafting products that truly deliver on their gut health promises requires a blend of science, creativity, and a dash of culinary magic! 🔬✨🍳

And Kara Landau shows us how to add these elements to develop food and drink products with effective gut health benefits. Read on!

GourmetPro: Gut health has become one of the hottest trends within the food and drink industry today. What has contributed to this growth? How have attitudes to this topic changed over the last 5-10 years?

Kara Landau: Gut health has become a hot topic, not only in food and beverage, but across the board in a number of industries due to the growing body of research that continues to come out showing major implications of both positive or negative gut health in association to health conditions. These conditions span well beyond digestive health, now showing connections with the lungs, brain, skin, as well as inflammatory pathways and corresponding lifestyle diseases.

This, together with a growing interest in food as medicine and taking a more holistic approach to health and wellness, is resulting in a greater consumer appetite to seek functional foods and beverages that are able to support the body and mind well beyond simple calories and basic nutrition. Across each lifespan stage, there are specific health concerns that gut health can interplay with, such as digestive health support during pregnancy, hormonal changes during menopause, mental health concerns during young adult life, and more. As a result, more and more brands are looking at ways in which they can offer natural solutions to health ailments, of which a gut health positioned product can fit strongly within.


GP: When it comes to creating new gut health products, how do you decide which product categories to focus on?

Kara: When reviewing with a brand which category to enter a gut health focused product, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, such as

  • Are consumers ready for a product in this space to be focused on gut health?

  • Or, are you as a company going to be a first-to-market and want to own all the education?

There will always be some categories that lend themselves more strongly at a mass level to gut health benefits based on where consumer understanding is.

For example, if a big brand wanted to enter the gut health market with a prebiotic-focused product, they may prefer to look at a category that consumers already associate probiotics with, or even dietary fiber and digestive health.

On the other hand, if an emerging brand wants to go for the early adopter and is willing to truly innovate to guide consumers to what is possible, they may enter a more niche space and be willing to be a first mover while introducing a new nutrient and focus of gut health in the particular category.

Kara Landau


GP: What are a few of the easier categories to incorporate gut health benefits into and what are a few of the most challenging? Is this a functional benefit that can work with any category?

Kara: Gut health benefits can be woven into an array of categories due to the variety of ingredients and nutrients that can be utilized to own the positioning.

For example, there are probiotics that need refrigeration and would work well in fermented offerings, whilst there are spore probiotics that are stable at room temperature and can survive many processing techniques for those wanting to target a shelf stable product.

There are also prebiotics that come in a number of formats such as soluble fibers, polyphenolic compounds or resistant starches that each work in different product categories based on heat exposure and processing techniques. Understanding which ingredient to utilize within the various formats is where an expert can be of assistance to help ensure what you incorporate in the initial formulation is actually what will be present in the final finished good. And that it will hold true to the gut health claims a brand wants to make in conjunction with their product.

GP: How do you pick the right/most appropriate gut beneficial ingredients for products? What factors do you take into account? To what extent does the product category factor into this?

Kara: Outside of everything mentioned above in relation to consumer understanding, looking at the supply chain and distribution elements that are connected will also be important.

For example, a company may want to include probiotics in a beverage, but does not want to have to distribute through cold storage refrigerated trucks only. Instead, the company would prefer to transport at an ambient temperature and store in regular warehouses. As such, the specific type of gut health ingredient that would be recommended would be different than if a company was already in the refrigerated market and had the versatility to also be able to store and shop in cooler temperatures.

When selecting the ingredient, manufacturing procedures also play a part.

For example, there are some resistant starch-based prebiotics that are not heat stable, and therefore lend themselves well to cold format products, but not heated or extruded.

There are also challenges around solubility at times. Understanding if to utilize a soluble fiber or a resistant starch, the dosage required to reap a true prebiotic or gut health benefit, and the final product serve size – all need to be taken into consideration when deciding which ingredient to utilize to craft the message around.

Additionally, depending on the product category and the target consumer, there are different ingredients that will read more favorably on an ingredient label. Some ingredients are labeled to sound like a vegetable or a whole food source, whereas others that are isolated may sound quite scientific or technical, which at times can be a deterrent to specific target groups. Therefore working through the brand’s goals with an expert can save a lot of time and money testing unsuitable options, and lead you more efficiently towards a solution that will fit the brand positioning and craft the message the company is aiming for.

Like what you’re reading?

GP: This is still an evolving field of research and there are new studies coming out practically every week. How does this factor into the innovation process?

Kara: Depending on a company’s risk aversion or willingness to be at the forefront with educating consumers on a specific positioning, is where I would begin when it comes to drawing on the science and the ingredients that could be incorporated into a new product in the gut health space.

When it comes to food and beverage, due to the stricter regulations around making specific health-related claims, often reviewing the science that is specific to an ingredient supplier’s materials will help a brand understand exactly what claims can be made. It also ensures that they would have regulatory support from a supplier, should they choose to go down the route of incorporating a unique gut health ingredient.

For those that are more risk averse, there are basic ingredients that can be recommended that have more regulatory approvals that can simply lead to content claims rather than health claims. In some cases, at a mass level, these work for both the company and the consumer they are targeting.


GP: Within the gut health space, probiotics are still a lot more popular with consumers compared to prebiotics. How can prebiotics be brought at par with probiotics in terms of popularity? Is one easier than the other to work with when developing products, or more versatile?

Kara: Probiotics got their claim to fame in the food and beverage industry when a larger company first brought them onto the market and funded a large marketing (and therefore awareness) campaign. Due to the positive association consumers already have with probiotics, and at a mass level the lack of clarity between prebiotics and probiotics, brands can leverage this to move into the prebiotic space and continue to shine a light on an extremely valuable nutrient that is lacking from the diet.

Prebiotics lend themselves extremely well to the food and beverage industry as there are far more prebiotic options than probiotic options that are heat stable and can survive throughout the food or beverage manufacturing process.

Prebiotics also lend themselves to supporting the overall ecosystem within the gut by allowing the bacteria that are already present in the individual to be nourished and continue to flourish. With probiotics, often one or two strains are cherry picked that happen to work through a manufacturing process to be the only addition to the body through the food or beverage product.

As such, multiple factors can be leveraged by a brand by utilizing prebiotics, including

  • The positioning of prebiotics around various health benefits

  • The versatility in formats they can work within

  • The often favorable pricing to other gut health targeted ingredients

  • Many prebiotics also lend themselves to adding dietary fiber

  • Many are also mildly sweet that helps reduce sugar requirements in a product

GP: Could you share some of the common challenges you've faced in creating gut health-focused foods?

Kara: Common challenges include ensuring that

  • the active dose of a specific gut health nutrient can easily be incorporated into a finished product

  • the manufacturing process does not destroy the benefits

  • the cost per dosage works within a company’s target margins

  • the labeling of the ingredient works for the product format so as to not sound too scientific

    • Often, the lower dosage ingredients are isolated forms of a nutrient that lend themselves to the supplement market consumer. But in food and beverage, they can be intimidating compared to ingredients that sound like whole foods but often have slightly higher dosage requirements to get the active dose.

Balancing all these various pieces is where an expert that can provide guidance on unique ingredients that fit the brand and business goals can prove very financially beneficial and help craft a unique product that is positioned strongly and less prone to being replicated by a competitor.

GP: Taking a traditionally indulgent product and giving it a functional twist is not always well received. What are some of the points to keep in mind when doing this?

Kara: Know your consumer and the usage occasion in which they utilize your products.

If indulgence is their number one priority, being too focused on a gut health benefit could prove to not offer enough value to the consumer. This in turn may not justify the premium price or margin hit that may occur from incorporating a particular functional ingredient.

On the other hand, there may still be a place in an indulgent product for a brand to reduce the negatively viewed nutrients, such as sugar, and increase the dietary fiber, which a prebiotic could still offer. Then the gut health benefit can be a secondary callout in the hierarchy of the brand messaging.

Simply adding in prebiotics or probiotics into just any product is not a recipe for success. However, developing products that fit into the every day nourishment category of someone’s pantry or fridge, that is viewed as a staple or that could be a staple, is a great way of tapping into a consumer’s existing behavior and leading them to see your offering as superior to the current offering on the market.

Want to leverage Kara’s expertise for your own product innovation?

That’s all folks

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