The Second Brain Might Be A Huge Opportunity for Supermarkets

The Lempert Report
February 22, 2021

Promote foods that are already on their shelves that are good for the gut.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Food for Health Center, Andy Benson and Robert Hutkins, are asking and answering questions about our second brain — the gut microbiome. Using what they’ve learned in the laboratory, and the specialized strains of bacteria they developed, Benson and Hutkins, along with Nebraska animal scientist Tom Burkey and former Husker scientist Jens Walter, launched their own company to bring their research to the marketplace. Synbiotic Health will provide something novel and clinically proven — a product that mixes beneficial microbes and the fiber-like fuel that feeds them — for health-conscious consumers. Benson says that the gut microbiome is a collection of hundreds of trillions of microorganisms — most of them bacteria — that live in our gastrointestinal tract. They form a very complex ecosystem that does a number of things that contributes to our health and our wellness. The microbiome plays a major role in training our immune system.

He goes on to say that they know from work in germ-free animals that their immune system does not develop or function normally without those organisms present. Another benefit is their role in breaking down dietary components, especially components such as fiber that our bodies don’t break down otherwise; and they convert those components into different types of metabolites, some of which our body actually uses and are very beneficial to us. Hutkins added that the microbes that live in the gut depend on the food that we eat for them, and so it makes perfect sense that diet and food would have an impact on the gut microbiome, for better or for worse. The microbes transform proteins into amino acids and sugars into organic acids and they produce vitamins directly in the food. So here’s the opportunity for supermarkets, to promote those foods that are already on their shelves that are good for the gut. For example, Hutkins says, certain yogurts are more digestible and contain more vitamins than the milk from which they were made.  Another is fiber-rich foods; fermentable fibers support growth of beneficial microbes that live in the gut. It’s time for merchandising, advertising and your retail dietitians to work together and promote gut health for the good health of your shoppers.