The world’s first probiotic beer, dubbed Red Billion Probiotic Raspberry Sour Beer, arrived in Singapore in March thanks to the partnership between food-tech start-up Probicient and Singapore-based craft brewery Brewerk. At a 4.5% ABV, the beer falls into the lighter end of the category and is available in select foodservice outlets. However, what makes this beer stand out is the addition of one billion live bacteria per serving which can help to enhance gut health and boost the immune system.

The incorporation of probiotics in beer plays into current demand for more specific health inclusiveness, as people seek products that target specific health concerns. And this is especially notable for the alcohol industry which, in recent years, has been marred by growing health concerns and teetotal trends. The launch of Red Billion itself reflects a much wider industry shift that is seeing alcohol producers attempt to reposition their portfolios as healthier through formulation innovations and functional health benefits.

Over the course of the pandemic, interest in immunity-boosting claims gained renewed interest as people became more conscious of their health and potential exposure to infection, subsequently leading to increased demand for fermented products. According to GlobalData’s Q1 2022 consumer survey, 53%* of global consumers believe that probiotics have a positive impact on their health, and this rises to 59%* in Singapore. Beer is widely consumed around the world and is often positioned both for socialising, celebrations or to wind down on a night. As highlighted by GlobalData, 31%** of Singaporean consumers drink beer at least once a week. Given the beverages popularity, incorporating added benefits such as ‘gut friendly’ or ‘immunity boosting’ will help to alleviate guilt from consuming what is considered a high calorific and unhealthy beverage. On the contrary, many are likely to be enticed as the beverage promises an easy and convenient way to address health concerns without needing to change their daily lifestyles.

Other brands have capitalized on the demand for fermented products to create a beer infused with kombucha, such as the Crown Jewel BuchaBeer made by the Fairport Brewing Company in New York. This pale ale was launched in 2018 to provide a low alcohol beer that contains a kombucha infusion and only has 86 calories per can. In Melbourne, Bucha Brothers also launched a low-calorie alcoholic kombucha drink that included live probiotics in its formulation. Another example in Australia from the Byron Bay brewery Stone and Wood is its three variants of Sneaky Bucha that contains kombucha, 4% ABV and is claimed to be low carb. These breweries are promoting better-for-you beers, however, Red Billion stands a part as Probicient has utilized its advanced technology to manufacture a beer that preserves one billion active bacteria after using the traditional methods of beer brewing.

The unique technology that enables the maintenance of live probiotics in Red Billion could highlight new opportunities for beer innovation in what could be considered a maturing market, and Probicient has indeed received SGD$1.5m of funding from Origgin Ventures, a specialist in early-stage deep-tech start-ups and venture co-creation. Probicient has more ideas on the horizon such as expanding its distribution to major retailers or creating new variants of its Red Billion. The company could also launch no and low (NoLo) alcoholic drinks to diversify its offer and get to those health-conscious consumers who are keen to consume NoLo alcoholic drinks while socializing and at the same time it also helps to nurture their gut. According to GlobalData, the global market value for beer and cider with a 0-0.5% ABV stood at $8,187.6*** in 2021 and it will grow by a CAGR of 7.3% to reach $11,650.94 in 2026. As an emerging market, there is ample opportunity for growth and innovation over the coming years. Probicient’s future looks favorable if it continues to focus on these key growth areas due to the upward trend of low or non-alcoholic drinks consumption and the demand for functional beverages that will see probiotics or kombucha increase in value.

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