Until recently, “microbiome” was not a word most shoppers were thinking about. Gut health was a concern for consumers with health issues or for early adopters in specialty stores. Today, “microbiome” and “gut health” are part of the general vernacular, and they’re on the minds of shoppers as they head to the store. Fortunately for them, brands are responding to the demand with a variety of choices and ways to incorporate microbiome products into daily routines. This is a win for shoppers and for the market.

The Strength of the Prebiotics and Probiotics Category

In both natural and MULO [multi-outlet] brick-and-mortar stores, the prebiotics and probiotics category is a $955 million business. Looking at SPINS data for the 52 weeks ending April 23, 2024, in the SPINS SNE, and MULO channels (powered by Circana), dollar sales were down 4.9% and units were down 7.7%, but ARP [average retail price] was up 3.0%. 

However, the story on Amazon is a bit rosier. For that same time period, SPINS ClearCut Amazon US Channel Data shows the prebiotics and probiotics category was a $904 million business for the online retailer. That came from a 28.2% increase in dollars and a 25.2% increase in units—all on a 2.4% increase in ARP.

Microbiome products are big business, and as with other categories, shoppers are exploring different avenues to find what they need. 

Shoppers are Choosing the Forms That Suit Their Needs

As microbiome products continue to permeate the mainstream market, the options grow. Shoppers can now choose from a variety of delivery forms that used to be afforded only to the most common alphabet vitamins. There are four primary delivery forms:

  • Gummies, which have growing sales in both brick-and-mortar shops and on Amazon. Gummies are popular because they often have several flavor options and feel less medicinal than other forms. Plus, many shoppers find gummiest easiest on their digestive system, especially compared to tablets. Brands like Olly offer combination probiotic and prebiotic gummies.

  • Capsules and tablets typically have higher concentrations of microbiome content than gummies. For example, a capsule might have 60 billion CFUs per serving vs 500 million for a gummy serving. Capsules and tablets are attractive options because, in addition to their high concentrations, they often have a lower price point, which is always attractive.

  • Powders offer a versatility that some shoppers find attractive, and others might find annoying. Gummies, capsules, and tablets are obviously premeasured amounts, so there’s no guesswork when taking one. Powders require measurement each time and are less portable. However, powders such as Sunfiber might be easier on the digestive system for many people and nutrients can be absorbed more quickly. Powders are also easy to mix into juices or smoothies, which can be easier to enjoy than popping a pill.

Don’t Overlook Functional Ingredients 

Although gummies, capsules, tablets, and powders are the most prominent delivery methods for microbiome content, functional ingredients are creating new avenues for forms. Some shoppers want to incorporate better gut health practices into their lives but either don’t want to feel like they’re taking medicine or aren’t looking for a daily regimen. Instead, products that easily fit into their life are the most reliable ways to boost their microbiome intake. 

That is perhaps why functional beverages are so popular. According to SPINS data, digestive health focused sodas that contain prebiotic or probiotics are enjoying a 175% increase in year-over-year sales and 164% increase in units year-over-year. These sodas quench shoppers’ thirsts, satisfy the craving for a non-water beverage, let them achieve a health goal, and are convenient. Brands wading into this functional beverage space for digestive health are meeting shoppers where they are. Whether or not these sodas are delivering the highest concentration of microbiome content is less important than whether or not these are the products that people enjoy and consistently use.

A Growing Audience Needs Plenty of Choices

Thanks to the prevalence of social media, we now have influential forces like TikTok educating shoppers both on the benefits of gut health and highlighting the many options they can find online and in store. The audience for microbiome products will continue to expand and the range of needs and preferences will diversify, which is good news for everyone in the microbiome space. Whether there are more flavorful gummies, more CFUs in each capsule, or a new line of functional sodas, a wide range of shoppers will be there to find the choice that works best for their lifestyle and their health.