Fonterra's Probiotics redefine gut, brain, and skin health 


Recent years have seen a surge in global awareness about the benefits of probiotics as consumers seek natural ways to enhance their health and well-being.

Probiotic dairy products were once known mainly for their positive effects on digestive and immune health. According to the FMCG Gurus Probiotics Survey, 73% of consumers use probiotic products to support digestive health, and 71% aim to boost their immune systems. However, consumers have become motivated by a wider set of health-related concerns. 

Dr James Dekker, a Probiotics Scientist at Fonterra’s Research and Development Centre (FRDC), says we have reached a crossroads when it comes to the study of probiotic bacteria and the influence of gut bacteria on health and wellbeing.

Fonterra has long been at the forefront of innovation in dairy science and nutrition. At the heart of this innovation lies the Fonterra Research and Development Centre (FRDC) in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Founded in 1927, the FRDC has been instrumental in pioneering significant advancements in dairy science. 

“There is a lot of work going on right now into the gut-brain axis: how does what happens in our gut affect our brain and vice versa? It’s an exciting area of research, and dairy has a big role to play,” says Dr James Dekker, Probiotics Scientist, Fonterra Research and Development Centre.

“Everybody has a unique microflora in their gut, so how an individual gut microbiome interacts with the diet, host genetics, and environment can make studying the effects of probiotics quite challenging. Nonetheless, what has been constantly intriguing is how specific probiotic strains can exert consistent effects on a large range of consumers.”

Probiotics: The science behind the innovation

The FRDC is home to some of the world’s most researched probiotics. Their journey into probiotic research began in the mid-1990s when they initiated a strategic research program to develop unique probiotic strains that enhanced the immune system. After rigorous screening and testing, they identified four promising probiotics, of which the top two went on to human clinical trials to explore their health benefits further. 

Dr James Dekker, Probiotic Scientist at FRDC.

The Microbial Fermentation Unit (MFU), based at the FRDC, has amassed over 40,000 dairy-associated bacterial strains over three decades and is regarded as one of the world's largest collections of its type. This has now become a rich source of potential new probiotics. 

Dr Mark Malone, GM of science and Technology at FRDC.

Mark Malone, Fonterra’s GM of Science and Technology, says Fonterra’s work in probiotics has proven successful and has taken significant steps to leverage its expertise. This includes forming a strategic partnership with APC Microbiome Ireland, a world-leading research center focused on harnessing the power of the microbiome for health and well-being. This partnership will see establishment of the Fonterra Microbiome Research Centre at University College Cork by the end of 2023. 

“The primary goal of this collaboration is to identify and substantiate the health benefits of Fonterra’s probiotics so that we can bring a number of new probiotic strains to the market over the next 5-10 years. The demand for Fonterra’s probiotics has surged in recent years due to rising demand globally, reflecting the growing awareness of the positive impact of probiotics on health and well-being.” 

To date, their LactoB HN001™ has been clinically proven to help prevent children’s eczema. There is also evidence to show that it can reduce post-natal anxiety by 45% and gestational diabetes by 68% in women taking it during pregnancy.

The primary goal of this collaboration is to identify and substantiate the health benefits of Fonterra’s probiotics so that we can bring a number of new probiotic strains to the market over the next 5-10 years. 

Mark Malone, GM of Science and Technology, fRDC

“Meanwhile, our probiotic strain BifidoB HN019™ (DR10) can be found in Anchor ImmunoHalo and Anmum Toddler Milk and provides a range of gut health and immune benefits.  A study that used HN019™ in an infant formula showed the infants were much less likely to succumb to respiratory tract infections such as colds and flu. Given its proven benefits, HN019™ has become popular with many of our customers for use in their food and beverage products.” says Dr James Dekker. 

Probiotics: The key to holistic health 

Over the last 30 years, more than 200 peer-reviewed journal articles have been published to demonstrate the health benefits of HN001™ and HN019™. In 2000, HN001™ and HN019™ were launched with world-class efficacy, stability, safety, and manufacturing efficiency and have become among the most respected probiotic strains in the world.  While the strains have some overlapping benefits, each strain has a specific set of associated health benefits:

Dr James Dekker works in the Microbial Fermentation Lab at FRDC.

1. Inflammation Control:  

“Fonterra's strains have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, helping to maintain a balanced immune response and potentially mitigating various health disorders.” says Dr James Dekker, Probiotics Scientist, FRDC. 

While inflammation is a central feature of a healthy immune response, it also needs to be carefully regulated as unchecked or chronic inflammation can be involved in a wide range of health disorders, such as obesity, age-related immune decline, Type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.  Both HN001™ and HN019™ have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, bringing the immune system back into balance.  For instance, HN019™ reduced inflammatory cytokines (pro-inflammatory markers found in the blood) in metabolic syndrome sufferers. HN001™, meanwhile, has been noted to protect the gut epithelial layer (the lining of the digestive tract) from the adverse effects of inflammation, thereby preventing “leaky gut,” thought to be an underlying cause of chronic systemic inflammation. 

Dr Maher Faud, Principal Research Clinician at FRDC.

2. Brain health:

“Fonterra's probiotics have shown potential in improving mood, reducing the risk of post-natal depression, and modulating neurotransmitter levels in the brain,” says Dr Maher Fuad, Principal Research Clinician, FRDC. 

Research at the FRDC has revealed promising brain health effects associated with their probiotic strains, particularly HN001™. One study demonstrated HN001™'s ability to reduce the risk of post-natal depression, while a pilot study showed improvements in mood in individuals. Studies investigating the mechanisms behind these effects suggest that HN001™ consumption may influence neurotransmitter levels in the brain and mitigate the adverse effects of chronic stress. Notably, the gut contains a significant amount of neural tissue and utilises similar neurotransmitters as found in the brain. This suggests that responses to specific gut microflora can generate signals in the gut that can impact the brain and that HN001™ might use these pathways to improve mood or reduce stress and anxiety.

3. Gut Comfort:

“Research indicates that certain strains can improve gut comfort and reduce constipation," says Dr James Dekker, Probiotics Scientist, FRDC.

Multiple studies have confirmed that HN019™, both on its own and in combination with other probiotic strains, can enhance gut comfort and alleviate constipation by improving slow gut transit time. Mechanistic studies have further supported these findings by demonstrating HN019™'s direct impact on gut motility.

4. Weight Management and Metabolic Health: 

“Certain strains can influence metabolic health and potentially contribute to managing conditions like type 2 diabetes,” says Dr Shalome Bassett, Probiotic Discovery Programme Leader and Principal Scientist, FRDC.

FRDC's research indicates that their probiotics, particularly HN001™ and HN019™, hold potential in weight management and metabolic health. A study involving pregnant women revealed that HN001™ reduced the risk of gestational diabetes, sparking interest in its impact on type 2 diabetes management. While direct evidence is limited, there is optimism about the role of probiotics in metabolic disorders. Studies using HN019™ have shown modest but significant improvements in weight loss, blood lipids, and inflammatory markers in individuals with metabolic syndrome.

5. Immunity Support:

“Fonterra's probiotics have consistently shown improvements in biomarkers of immune function, reducing the risk of common illnesses," says Dr James Dekker, Probiotics Scientist, FRDC. 

FRDC's research has demonstrated that HN001™ and HN019™ effectively enhance human immune function. They have explored various immune benefits, including protecting infants and young children from common childhood illnesses such as respiratory tract infections. Other immune-related benefits have been observed, such as reduced gum infections with HN019™ and decreased bacterial vaginosis with HN001™. In both cases, immune reactions local to the site of infection and responses that draw in the wider immune system appear to involved. Furthermore, these probiotics have exhibited direct effects against common human pathogens like Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile. Some studies even suggest potential benefits in overcoming age-related immune decline (immune senescence).

6. Skin Health:  

“Specific strains have proven effective in treating conditions like eczema, providing long-lasting protective benefits,” says Dr Shalome Bassett, Probiotic Discovery Programme Leader and Principal Scientist, FRDC.  

HN001™ has demonstrated effectiveness in preventing eczema in infants and that this protection may last well into childhood.  In addition, Fonterra has recently launched a new probiotic strain, HN301™, that reduces eczema symptoms in adults.  

Dr Shalome Bassett, principal scientist and Probiotic Discovery Programme Leader at FRDC.


Fonterra-owned Nutiani™ helps nutrition brands better seize marketing opportunities by targeting the challenges faced by modern consumers' lifestyles and cost of living concerns. Launched in September 2022, Nutiani is Fonterra's business-to-business wellbeing nutrition brand, delivering ingredients, consumer-tested concepts, and expert services to the global wellbeing industry. Some market examples of consumer products using probiotics strains developed by FRDC and sold under Nutiani, include:

China, using Nutiani HN001™ and Nutiani HN019™

Nurture, Singapore - Using Nutiani HN019™

China,using Nutiani HN301™

The future of probiotic innovation 

The global probiotics market continues to experience robust growth and is expected to reach NZD$150 billion by 2027. With three decades of probiotics expertise, Fonterra is committed to furthering its research and innovation in probiotics and delivering probiotic health benefits that align with global consumer needs. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Fonterra and Nutiani’s probiotics, visit our website: Nutiani Probiotics.

If you want to learn more about the Fonterra Research and Development Centre, click here.


Fonterra Research and Development Centre, Palmerston North.
Dr Shalome Bassett, working in the Microbial Fermentation Lab at the Fonterra Research and Development Centre.