“Microbes are used by food companies for a variety of functions – from improved process efficacy to shelf-life and flavor development. But an examination of patent filings over the last 20 years shows the food industry is prioritizing one area above all others – gut health.
“The microbes present in our digestive system, forming the guy microbiome, have been increasingly prioritized in food and drink products over the last 20 years”
This reflects growing awareness of the importance of digestive health on overall wellness and microbiome innovation is now of ‘enormous interest’ to the nutrition, agriculture, health and personal care sectors.
“These products include those containing specific beneficial microbes, known as probiotics, and those that contain ingredients, known as prebiotic, that promote the growth and maintenance of healthy gut microbes.”
Cool Kefir and fashionable fermentation
Microbes have been used in baking, brewing and cheesemaking for generations. But more recently, products such as kefir (made from fermented goat milk) have become more popular.
Fermentation continues to be a hot topic, with manufacturers increasingly leveraging bacteria or yeasts to convert carbohydrates to alcohol organic acids. This can enhance the taste, texture or aroma of foods. It can also improve shelf-life by inhibiting the growth of unwanted microbes.
Probiotics: Dairy dominates
“Our data certainly suggests that, for the period 2009-2019, dairy was the most established probiotic-related food category.”
“Probiotics are now frequently found in dried foods such as cereal and muesli, and a variety of such products is available on supermarket shelves.”
“One application related to a new bacterium, used as a prophylactic to prevent Listeria infections, in food products ranging from cereal to yoghurt.”
Gut Health is big business
“It is perhaps unsurprising that Danone holds one of the highest numbers of dairy and probiotic related patent families for a single entity, considering the popularity of its probiotic products, including Actimel and Activia.”
“Patents can be extremely useful assets to smaller companies looking to improve their position, by providing a competitive advantage and attracting potential investors. Furthermore, a strong patent portfolio is a valuable asset that larger companies may seek to acquire.”