Food & Beverage Insider: Prebiotics- Trend to watch in coffee & tea

Check out our press mention in Food & Beverage Insider’s Innovations in coffee and tea – digital magazine

By: Hannah Ackermann, RD | Registered Dietitian & Corporate Communications Manager at Comet Bio

Functional beverages allow consumers to seamlessly integrate wellness options into their daily routines, such as their morning cup of coffee or afternoon iced tea. Their convenience, coupled with more choices than ever hitting shelves, has led to functional beverage categories experiencing exponential growth in recent years.

According to SPINS market research firm, functional beverage categories are up 5.9% across all channels, generating sales of $27.2 billion over the past year. Top-performing categories include shelf-stable energy and other functional beverages, which had a sales increase of 11.7 percent, and refrigerated kombucha and fermented beverages, which had a sales increase of 15.7 percent over the prior-year period.1

With both energy and digestive health claims on the rise, gut-healthy coffees and teas represent a prime opportunity for innovation. These functional beverages with hybrid benefits can address multiple need states for consumers. While functional beverages with probiotic benefits are already mainstream, looking to the future, expect to see more energy beverages touting prebiotic benefits, which also play an essential role in gut health.

What are prebiotics?

Prebiotics and probiotics are easily confused, but offer distinct digestive health benefits. Probiotics are good bacteria that fight off harmful bacteria in the gut and help establish a healthy microbiome. Probiotics are found in foods such as yogurt and specialty beverages, including ‘gut-shots’ and kombucha.

Prebiotics are dietary fibers often found in grains, vegetables, and fruits that cannot be broken down by enzymes in our digestive system. These non-digestible carbohydrates act as fuel for good bacteria in the gut, including probiotics and optimize their growth and functions.

To develop a successful gut health regiment, it is vital to include both probiotics and prebiotics. Consuming only probiotics without prebiotics is like planting seeds on cement instead of on fertilizer.

Reinvigorating the tea category with prebiotics

As consumer awareness of prebiotics’ role in the microbiome grows, beverage manufacturers should consider new ways to market teas with fiber benefits. There are existing teas with fiber on the market which are often promoted as having laxative or detoxifying benefits. These “Skinny Teas” or “Smooth Move” teas generally use psyllium husks as their fiber source, which can have prebiotic benefits, but also can cause severe GI distress, including bloating or loose stools when not taken properly.

A new generation of fiber-rich teas specifically developed with prebiotic benefits is now rolling out. Inner Life! has a line of prebiotic drink mixes, including Peach Iced Tea Flavored stick packs which each provide 3.8g of Comet Bio’s prebiotic fiber Arrabina. The brand chose Arrabina as the Arabinoxylab prebiotic fiber source because it is clinically proven to be exceptionally well-tolerated and gentle on the stomach, even at a dose of 12 grams per day.2 It doesn’t cause the gut discomfort, excess gas and bloating associated with other fiber sources, such as inulin commonly derived from chicory root or psyllium husks.3

Coffee with a double shot of functional ingredients

Many consumers still prefer to receive their caffeine jolt from the original functional energy beverage, coffee. According to market research firm IRI, whether from a cup, can or bottle, coffee is widely popular with $3.2 billion in 2019 retail sales.4 The benefits of coffee’s naturally-occurring caffeine may even go beyond energy. Emerging research shows that higher caffeine consumption is associated with increased richness and evenness of the mucosa-associated gut microbiota, and higher relative abundance of anti-inflammatory bacteria, such as Faecalibacterium and Roseburia and lower levels of potentially harmful Erysipelatoclostridium.5

Rather than merely relying on coffee’s natural caffeine content, beverage manufacturers can go a step further to create functional coffee beverages with added nutrients, including prebiotic fiber. Bulletproof coffee brand now has a prebiotic powder, InnerFuel, which can be added to coffee. Fit Grinds takes functional coffee a step further by including both a prebiotic xylo-oligosaccharide, and a probiotic, Bacillus Subtilis, in its PRE+PRObioics infused coffee blend.

Meeting consumers’ growing desire for functional coffees and teas

An emerging category a decade ago, the functional beverage category has matured and evolved in terms of the types of ingredients used in drinks. Coffee and tea manufacturers should consider novel ingredients, including prebiotics, when formulating the next generation of beverages.

Comet Bio’s Arrabina™ Arabinoxylan Plant Fiber Extract is a prebiotic well-suited coffee or tea beverages given its mild, yet rich taste profile. Arrabina™ is a highly functional ingredient as it is a fully-soluble powder with high potency. Only 2.2 grams of Arabinoxylan is needed to achieve prebiotic benefits, giving it a low inclusion rate compared to other prebiotic fibers such as inulin, which require a dosage of 5 grams for prebiotic benefits.6   Arabinoxylan is also an exceptionally well-tolerated prebiotic fiber and gentle on the stomach.2


  1. SPINS Functional and Enhanced Beverages Report:
  2. Comet Bio Clinical Trial Results For Its Prebiotic Arrabina:
  3. Grootaert C, Van den Abbeele P, Marzorati M, Broekaert WF, Courtin CM, Delcour JA, Verstraete W, Van de Wiele T, Comparison of prebiotic effects of arabinoxylan oligosaccharides and inulin in a simulator of the human intestinal microbial ecosystem, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Volume 69, Issue 2, August 2009, 231–2
  4. IRI 2019-Consumer-Connect_Food-and-Beverage-Trends:
  5. Caffeine Consumption and the Colonic Mucosa-Associated Gut Microbiota:
  6. ISAPP; Windley et al. 2015, Cloetens et al. 2010, Francois et al. 2014, Maki et al. 2012, Walton et al. 2012, Damen et al. 2012, Kjølbæk et al. 2019