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Probiotic chocolate springboards off Activia success

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 29-May-2009
Last updated the 01-Jun-2009 at 18:51 GMT

Barry Callebaut has launched its ProBenefit probiotic chocolate for food manufacturers in the US, saying that Dannon’s Activia advertising has boosted consumer awareness of probiotics’ potential benefits.

According to market research analyst Frost and Sullivan, consumers are increasingly focused on ways to avoid illness due to the economic downturn, and adding health and wellness ingredients like probiotics is a way for food manufacturers to capitalize on the trend.

Barry Callebaut had already released its probiotic chocolate in Europe in 2007, but awareness of the benefits of ‘good bacteria’ for gut health has lagged somewhat in the US.

However, Jaime Scholl, Marketing Manager – Food Manufacturing for Barry Callebaut North America told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “The advertising and marketing push associated with the Activia product launch really provided a foundation for consumer education on what probiotics are and why they are beneficial.”

He added that a successful launch of probiotic chocolate in the US also depended on consumers being willing to accept that chocolate could have a positive health impact, and on its gaining kosher certification.

“Barry Callebaut conducted additional stability tests on the kosher certified probiotics to confirm that they behaved in the same manner as their non kosher certified counterpart,” he said.

The company said that the chocolate can be used by manufacturers in the same way as regular chocolate for enrobing, panning, and confectionery processes, but not for baking applications, due to the probiotic bacteria only surviving at a maximum temperature of 42 C/107 F. The chocolate is available in both milk and dark varieties and is supplied to manufacturers in either liquid or solid form and Barry Callebaut claims that the probiotics survive three times better in chocolate than in milk or yogurt products, and also have a longer shelf life of up to one year.

US probiotics awareness

While the North American probiotics market appears to be in the initial stages of sudden growth, awareness of the bacteria and their health benefits is still very low.

A survey conducted in August 2008 found that the vast majority of Americans knew nothing about probiotics, suggesting more education efforts could help boost an industry still in its infancy.

The national survey, carried out by Opinion Research Corporation, revealed that only 15 percent of American adults were familiar with the healthy bacteria.

The survey, which involved telephone interviews with 1000 adults in the US, reported that 85 percent of respondents knew “little to nothing” about probiotics.

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