Beyond the little bottles

Beyond the little bottles

From the yoghurt drinks of the ‘90s to Unilever’s recent investment in ‘happy bacteria’ skincare, probiotics are still a hot topic – but beyond the little bottles consumer confusion is rife, discovers Kate Miller, and puzzling legislation isn’t helping 

Anybody who was around in the 1990s will remember a phenomenon which came to be known as ‘the battle of the little bottles’.

The little bottles in question were probiotic-based yoghurt drinks that spent much of the decade vying for sales on supermarkets shelves. While those in the natural food world had raised a weary eyebrow at this ‘discovery’ of an area known to them for decades, it did kick-start an interest among consumers that has continued ever since.

However, with success comes scrutiny, and the decades in between have seen the European Commission ban the term probiotic, and the European Food Safety Authority reject all petitions by commercial manufacturers for health claims on probiotic products in Europe – the most recent being Heinz Nutrimune in April, first rejected in 2017.

Despite the legislative minefield, nutritionist Shona Wilkinson says interest continues to grow, particularly in the last 18 months – due partly to research pointing to uses other than just gut health. “We used to recommend them mainly for digestive issues, but since the emergence of so much research on their effect on other health conditions, their use has widened. It is now common to recommend them for issues such as skin health, mood, immunity and so on. As more research is produced, the use of probiotics will undoubtedly increase, probably with more emphasis on different strains for particular health issues.”

Strong performer
Joanna Dziedzic, natural therapist and retail manager at Windfall Natural in Chiswick, says it’s a major area for the store: “Probiotics is probably one of our strongest categories. We sell many different lines: BioCare, Pure Encapsulations, Garden of Life, OptiBac and many more, but BioCare definitely performs best for us. We’ve been observing a growing interest in this area and our customers frequently use them for post-antibiotic treatment, bloating and constipation.”

Dziedzic says that her customers also use them to strengthen their immunity, ease seasonal allergies and for gastrointestinal symptoms related to food intolerances such as dairy, wheat and gluten. “Parents buy it for their newborn babies, as well as school children; we help them to choose the most suitable product for their condition.”

According to Mintel, probiotics’ role in skincare through supplementation is one to watch. In the report Managing Skin Conditions, 44% of adults reported suffering from a skin condition, with 54% of women who used facial skincare products agreeing that diet could impact skin appearance, and 38% saying that stress can impact skin appearance. 

In 2015, Mintel pointed to market opportunities for probiotic skincare to restore  healthy skin, and since that time, probiotic skincare has risen. The analyst says that the investment of large companies into smaller brands (Unilever Ventures’ investment in Gallinée and L Catterton’s investment in Tula last year) is a sign that the area has gone from a niche trend to the mainstream, and is set to grow as consumers buy into the ‘inside out’ trend of cleaner living.

Legislation hurdle
But it seems that the effect of the little bottles, and confusion resulting from legislation, is still being felt: “The public’s knowledge of probiotics still tends to be limited to the likes of Yakult,” says Wilkinson. “Some clients know about probiotics for digestive health (usually the yoghurt drinks), but their knowledge tends to stop there. They need much more guidance on the different types and what is the best one for them.

“But the legislation makes it incredibly difficult to inform people of their benefits in a legal way – instead, very creative wording has to be used! In view of the emerging research on probiotics for sport, it would be worth manufacturers obtaining an informed sports certification.

“In America, where they can use the word probiotic, this popularity is even more evident. You can get probiotic chocolate, probiotic drinks, probiotic biscuits, probiotic skincare, probiotic cleaning products – in fact, pretty much probiotic everything!” Wilkinson says that the US also has the advantage of being able to sell probiotics for different health conditions: “For example, you will see ranges with different probiotics for arthritis, digestive health, mood, eczema, etc.”

Dziedzic agrees: “Most customers have heard a lot about probiotics but often become confused and overwhelmed with the choice on the market and different messages on the Internet. Having experienced and qualified nutritionists on the shop floor, we feel very comfortable asking customers specific questions, providing the best possible tailored advice and directing them to the right product.”

Legislation isn’t the only fly in the ointment, with a spate of headlines last year questioning both the efficacy and safety of products. Research published in Cell questioned whether general probiotics, which weren’t tailored to individual use, were of any use at all, with research participants showing gut microbiome resistance to some probiotic strains they were given. 

Another study questioned whether taking probiotics to counter the effects of antibiotics might actually adversely interfere with the body’s own ability to replenish its microbiome, and another linked taking probiotics with bloating and brain sluggishness. 

However, Wilkinson says that her clients don’t seem to be affected by the negative publicity. “I have not had a single person worry about this. I think that there are so many damaging and contradictory stories around supplements in the press … the public has become a bit blasé and almost blind to the scaremongering!”


Garden of Life Microbiome Formula Mood+ 50 Billion CFU

Kinetic Natural Products Distributor
Tel: 08450 725 825
E-mail:  [email protected]

Garden of Life Microbiome Formula Mood+ 50 Billion CFU is a unique doctor formulated probiotic formula made with over 70% organic ingredients. Featuring clinically studied strains to support mood, L. helveticus R0052 and B. longum R0175, 350mg of organic ashwagandha and organic Alaskan blueberries for stress management and acacia prebiotic fibre. Non-GMO Project Verified, vegetarian and gluten-free, with a shelf-stable promise – all probiotic cultures are shipped in a “two-shot” desiccant-lined bottle to ensure your microbiome formula Arrive Alive and Stay Alive. All products are also resistant to stomach acid and bile, ensuring proper arrival and activation in the intestines. 


Symbiotic 7 with prebiotic & 7 bacteria strands

Link Nutrition
Tel: 020 7881 0046
E-mail:  [email protected]

Link Nutrition’s Symbiotic 7 contains seven probiotic strains carefully selected for their potential to resist the upper digestive tract and colonize the lower digestive tract. These probiotic strands are supported by individual scientific studies showing general improvement in gut health and digestive comfort when consumed regularly. Alongside 40 billion bacterial units, Symbiotic 7 also contains a prebiotic in the form of acacia gum fibre. Furthermore, it does not to be refrigerated, making it easier to take a daily symbiotic when and where it is convenient. 


Prebio NutriPowder

BioCare Ltd
Tel: 0121 433 3727
E-mail: [email protected]

Prebio NutriPowder is an all-in-one blend of plant prebiotics, with inulin, FOS, GOS, apple pectin, acacia gum, arabinogalactans and resistant starch, to support the balance of the gut microbiome, overall gut health, and energy and fat metabolism.

The standard modern diet is generally low in soluble fibres and prebiotics. Prebiotics are soluble fibres that are naturally sweet, but the sugars are not absorbed. They provide a food source for gut bacteria, preferentially increasing colonies of beneficial bacteria.  Prebio NutriPowder includes a wide range of different prebiotics to mimic the variety found in a highly varied diet, including inulin, FOS, GOS, apple pectin, acacia gum, arabinogalactans and resistant starch. (cf Jeff Leach of the Human Food Project suggests people increase the diversity and quantity to 25-30 different species of plants every week and 30-150 g/day of fibre), to instantly increase your dietary diversity!

Prebiotics support gut flora balance, motility, epithelial integrity, immunity and help produce useful nutrients for gut cells such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Prebiotics also act as a bulking agent in the bowel to encourage peristaltic motion, exerting a positive influence on bowel activity and evacuation. In particular Inulin, pectin, acacia gum and resistant starch also positively support glucose and fat metabolism.  

Normally, prebiotic products are quite simple and contain only one or two types, usually FOS or inulin. Prebio NutriPowder is unique in its breadth and potency of prebiotic fibres, mimicking the optimum human plant diet and increasing microbial diversity. Formulated in an easy to take & flexible powder form, mix into water or make into a smoothie for convenient daily nutrition. Suitable for vegetarians.

Find out more and Discover the Power of NutriPowders 


OptiBac Probiotics

OptiBac Probiotics
Tel: 01264 339 770
E-mail:  [email protected]

OptiBac Probiotics are the experts in friendly bacteria. The OptiBac Probiotics range is developed in the world’s leading laboratories and contains many of the world’s most researched strains. Rated ‘Excellent’ on TrustPilot, the most powerful independent online review platform, these high-quality supplements can be taken as part of a daily routine or used for more specific needs such as support whilst on antibiotics, travelling abroad, immunity or women’s intimate health.


Pro-Cognitiv® (10 Billion Bacteria)

Natures Aid Ltd
Tel: 01772 686231
E-mail:  [email protected] 

Pro-Cognitiv® has been formulated by Natures Aid nutritionists, based on research into the microbiome and the gut-brain axis. Each capsule provides 10 billion bacteria, across 4 specifically chosen strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Bifidobacteria bifidum and Lactobacillus rhamnosus. The formula also includes B6, B12 and Folic Acid to reduce homocysteine levels.  With B5 to support normal mental performance and the normal synthesis of some neurotransmitters. Other B vitamins have been included due to their synergistic action.  B1, Niacin and Magnesium are all present to support the normal function of the nervous system, normal energy-yielding metabolism and normal psychological function.  Suitable for Vegans.



The Really Healthy Company
Tel: 0208 480 1000
E-mail:  [email protected]

Micromax is a biodynamically fermented live gut food supplement that contains over 30 species of both aerobic and anaerobic microbes that can synergistically help optimise the bacterial population profiles in the gastrointestinal tract. Based on the work of Professor Higa in Japan, Micromax combines 40 different wild Alpine herbs and organic molasses, whose sugar is used up during fermentation, making it safe for diabetics. Many of the Micromax microbes are not found in other probiotic formulas. Biodynamically produced, GMO free and vegan. Does not contain artificial ingredients, additives, preservatives or flavourings. Solvent-free, gluten free, dairy free, alcohol free.


5 in 1 symptom defence 

World Foods Brand Management
Tel:  01782 366080
E-mail: [email protected]

Transipure is a new high fibre powder containing live cultures, prebiotics, digestive enzymes and plant extracts.
Our digestive system is one of our most crucial systems for maintaining good health. What we eat and how our body processes food can determine many health factors, including; diabetes, weight gain, heart health, colon & bowel health and a healthy functioning immune system. Transipure contains an array of digestion friendly ingredients to help maintain a healthy digestive system. Transipure is available from your Health Food wholesaler or call World Foods Brand Management on 01782 366080


RAW Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother

RAW Vibrant Living
Tel: 0209 547 2775
E-mail:  [email protected]

Our Apple Cider Vinegar is made from fresh cold-pressed organic apple juice, which is then naturally fermented. RAW ACV is never heat treated or pasteurised, in order to protect the valuable ‘mother’ bacteria, aroma and full fruity flavour. Perfect for use in salad dressings, sauces or to make an invigorating tonic drink.