Do these friendly bacteria really deliver substantial health benefits?
First there was plain yoghurt, then fruit yoghurts, then yoghurt drinks, and now everyone 's talking about - and apparently consuming - gut-friendly probiotics. Yakult started the trend almost 10 years ago but, since then, big names like Danone, M "uller and Nestl'e have jumped on the milk-train. Now, even supermarkets like Asda and Tesco have their own brands of probiotic drinks.
In fact, probiotic yoghurt, milk and fruit drinks are one of the fastest-growing sectors in food retailing, with UK sales increasing by a staggering 40 per cent each year. According to market researchers AC Nielsen, an estimated 3.5 million Britons now consume probiotic drinks every day in a consumer boom that 's worth about lb150 million a year.
What has propelled the probiotics explosion is something relatively new in mass food-marketing - the concept of quasi-pharmaceutical products known as 'functional foods'.
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