Times have certainly changed. Once upon a time, gut health was thought to be the straightforward act of digestion alone.

In 2011, when I embarked on a gut healing approach for my daughter, the concept was poorly understood. She had eczema, so why was I not focused on her skin?

Fast forward to 2020, and there has been a tremendous cultural food shift towards supporting digestion for health. Consumers have begun to connect the dots between what they eat and how they feel, and no longer worry about low fat or reduced calories. They are seeking nutrient dense foods that are easy to digest and/or contribute to a healthy microbiome by promoting gut friendly ‘good’ bugs.

As a clear example of the growth in this category, we see now not only one option in each range but several. From pre-made bone broths, paleo breads, probiotic cereals, collagen powders and probiotic foods such as coconut yoghurt and sauerkraut to digestive focused drinks such as kombucha, our shelves are increasingly full of products with claims of supporting gut health in various ways.

Due to the incredible amount of information exchange in social communities such as the The Healing Tribe or Real Food in New Zealand, consumers are beginning to realise they are increasingly influential in new product development as well, so what are the challenges going forward?

Maryana Lishman, Raised on Real Food founder

With so many new players entering the market, it will be interesting to see how many new products the category can withstand. Consumers are becoming increasingly savvy and are less likely to accept generic claims that cannot be soundly backed up, plus they want more zero waste options – and all at a good value price point. The opportunity for brands to engage strategically with wellness influencers also continues to be significant as consumers continue to seek word of mouth recommendations based on stories and experiences.

We can expect to see a stronger focus on the digestive and health benefits of eating less sugars and starches, meaning consumers may want to see ingredients like monk fruit rather than coconut sugar, especially alongside the rise of the keto and carnivore movements and their emerging stories of vastly improved digestive and immune health.