Fiber content is also a key criterion for 68% of consumers who look to see if a product contains fiber before they buy it. This trend is especially high among older consumers and women, according to the IFIC. Overall, 62% of U.S. consumers actively make an effort to consume fiber, as well as whole grains (62%) and protein (57%).
“In general, fiber is one of those nutrients that consumers know they need and believe they probably should get more of,” noted Deborah Schulz, product manager, Specialty Carbohydrates, Cargill, Minneapolis, MN.
Studies indicate 25-35 grams of daily fiber are optimal for health, according to Nicole Rees, business development manager, Flax, Glanbia Nutritionals, Fitchburg, WI. “Recommended amounts account for both soluble fibers, known to be effective cholesterol-lowering agents, and insoluble fibers, directly involved in the regulation of bowel movement and digestive health. Recent studies also demonstrated the benefits of high fiber intake in a glucose-controlled diet.”
Overall though, consumers aren’t getting enough fiber, said Scott Turowski, technical sales manager, Sensus America, Inc., Lawrenceville, NJ. “Consumption of dietary fiber in the U.S. remains well below the recommended intake, so the potential for functional fibers to fill this gap is great. Properties of some of these fibers, such as chicory root fiber, allow for the development of great tasting products, which is vital to consumer acceptance.”
An Expanding Product Range
New food and drink products launched in the U.S. with a high/added fiber claim increased 11% between 2011 (579) and 2013 (644), according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD). Snack/cereal/energy bars along with cold cereals were the dominant product type during this period, followed by bread and bread products.
“Fiber potential is mainly exploited in cereal/snack bars, breakfast cereals, bakery products but also in meal replacers contributing to satiety in combination with proteins,” said Joe O’Neill, president and general manager for BENEO Inc.’s U.S. division, Morristown, NJ.
Consumers like variety though, according to Jeff Lind, vice president of the Health Business Unit for Frutarom. “We see fibers being incorporated into new and different application forms as well as food products such as yogurt or wafers. Beverages provide another way to address the boredom associated with taking large amounts of the same product every day with different flavors and textures to provide variety.”
Consumers are very aware of ingredient lists and are looking for simple, recognizable ingredients, said Mathieu Dondain, director of business development, France-based Nexira. “Simpler is better for today’s consumers, which leads to a clear preference for natural ingredients instead of complicated and chemical-sounding names and their abbreviations. The current trend of ‘clean label’ is clearly identified in the U.S., Europe and other parts of the world.”
Choosing Fiber Type
On the functional side, fibers are formulation tools that adjust texture by improving viscosity, binding water, improving mouthfeel, etc., noted Mr. Dondain. For example, hydrocolloids such as acacia gum are recognized for their functional benefits in various applications and are a source of soluble fibers that can benefit low-calorie products.
“Nexira is the world leader in acacia gum and offers a wide range of specially designed products to meet the needs of the food and beverage industry with applications such as emulsions, bakery, drinks, confectionery, etc.,” he added.
Fibers also offer many health benefits. Nexira has focused its research on the nutritional benefits of acacia gum as a native source of soluble dietary fiber, and to develop the unique and innovative product line branded as Fibregum, which answers the clean label demand. Fibregum is a source of 90% soluble dietary fiber (AOAC 985.29 method) coming from 100% natural acacia gum.
Adding fiber can boost the nutritional benefits of a product but can also completely change its physico-chemical properties and thus its sensory properties, said Mr. Dondain. “These characteristics must be taken into account when choosing the type of fiber used. Formulators have to find the best ratio and the appropriate fiber according to the texture and viscosity they require. They therefore have to evaluate the purpose of the fiber introduction: is it for a nutritional claim, better product stability, an enhanced mouthfeel, etc.?”
Soluble fibers (such as gums, inulin, pectin and hydrolyzed fibers) can form a gel when mixed with liquid, slowing the movement of food through the intestines, according to Jit Ang, executive vice president of R&D, International Fiber Corporation, North Tonawanda, NY. “The longer the fibers stay in the intestines, the slower the onset of hunger feelings. This may also slow down the absorption of other nutrients, facilitating body cells to burn more sugar for energy, rather than storing fat. By regulating insulin levels—a vital function for diabetics—hunger is controlled, and one will eat less as a result.”
Insoluble fibers (such as cellulose, soy, wheat, bamboo and sugar cane) add bulking effect when consumed. This feeling of satiety continues as long as the fiber stays in the digestive system. “In general, insoluble fiber contains no calories and also provides physical bulk to the diet,” said Mr. Ang. “Foods containing high levels of insoluble fibers tend to also provide more satisfaction from chewing, plus the feeling of satiety upon ingestion. All these can help to reduce the amount of calories consumed.”
Recently, International Fiber Corporation developed a number of novel fiber-based products designed to deliver multi-functionality to a variety of food applications. “These are unique blends of several ingredients that can provide advantages to many types of food, ranging from meat products to bakery products to even vegetarian products,” said Mr. Ang. “By capitalizing on the strengths and synergies of these ingredients and fibers, a number of economical, quality and functional opportunities can be realized.”
Patrick Luchsinger, nutrition marketing manager, Ingredion Incorporated, Westchester, IL, noted that the prebiotic fiber market is expected to double in size to more than $220 million by 2016, according to Frost & Sullivan, and consumer awareness will continue to grow.
“According to Mintel’s 2012 report ‘Attitudes Toward Fiber and Digestive Health – US 2012,’ 76% of respondents rate digestive health as ‘very important,’ indicating a direct connection between fiber intake and digestive health. Therefore, we expect a more popular and increasing trend of prebiotic fiber and probiotics, which address not only adding more good bacteria to the gut but adding the food source to keep them fed and active.”
Ingredion’s proprietary information also indicated consumer understanding for prebiotics is increasing and that younger people (18-29) find having a prebiotic fiber on the label or in the product as “extremely important/very important.”
“What appears to be happening is that with the younger generation, so much information is at their finger tips with smart phones and the Internet, and they are educating themselves on the importance of functional ingredients like prebiotic fiber and why it is important to their overall health,” said Mr. Luchsinger.
Broader understanding of how good bacteria in the gut helps to support a healthy digestive and immune system has helped boost the prebiotic fiber market, he added. “Consumers are also increasingly aware of how a number of factors such as stress, antibiotics and poor diet can reduce the population of good bacteria, causing bacterial imbalance. This is where prebiotics can help.
Prebiotics serve as a fuel source for good bacteria, helping them to proliferate and crowd out pathogenic bacteria while increasing the absorption of minerals like calcium by lowering luminal pH to an optimal level and enhancing their absorption.”
Ingredion’s NutraFlora prebiotic fiber is a short-chain fructooligosaccharide (scFOS) with a broad foundation of scientific evidence supporting its efficacy for digestion, immune support and bone health. As a highly dispersible powder, NutraFlora is completely soluble, well tolerated, can enhance flavors, has no viscosifying effects in beverages and does not affect the taste profile of the end product, according to Mr. Luchsinger. “In reduced sugar and calorie applications that utilize high intensity sweeteners, NutraFlora can help round the sweetness profile, helping to deliver sweetness and taste that is more sugar-like. It allows for claims on fiber content, digestive health, immune health and bone health.”
Derived from chicory root, inulin is a versatile functional fiber. “Inulin is probably one of the most researched prebiotic sources of fiber,” said Cargill’s Ms. Schulz. “In addition to promoting gut health through the growth of beneficial bacteria, inulin is used in weight management products to boost satiety and as a bulking agent that can replace fat and sugar. Inulin is often used in conjunction with other high intensity sweeteners to maintain the same kind of taste and texture that consumers expect from their finished products.”
The company’s Oliggo-Fiber is “clinically proven and surprisingly invisible,” Ms. Schulz added, noting a proliferation of fiber fortification in snack products and non-traditional foods. “You could argue the whole snack area is changing as people move more toward snacking as their normal eating habits. People seem to be demanding better nutrition from their snacks.”
Fiber has played a starring role in the nutrition bar market, which has grown exponentially with the popularity of Fiber One bars and similar products, she added. Meanwhile, on the supplement side, fiber gummies have become increasingly popular.
Chicory root fiber has been a very popular choice for developers over the past several years, said Sensus’ Mr. Turowski. “The product is unique in that it shares many of the same functional properties as sugar and high fructose corn syrup and in many cases can be used as a direct replacement. Chicory root fiber is also natural and non-GMO, making it a suitable option for those segments. In addition to being a dietary fiber, chicory root fiber is also a prebiotic, supporting digestive health as demonstrated in numerous clinical studies.”
Sensus developed Frutalose SF75 as a fiber that performs as a natural sweetener and delivers 65% the sweetness of sugar. “The ability to directly replace sugar or high fructose corn syrup has expanded the possibility for its application in a range of functional foods,” said Mr. Turowski.
BENEO’s Mr. O’Neill also said inulin and oligofructose derived from chicory root “are the best-researched prebiotic fiber ingredients worldwide,” with various technical and nutritional benefits. “They contribute to overall well-being, help to improve digestive health and bowel regularity. Moreover, they have been found to help consumers eat less when including prebiotic fibers in their diet.”
BENEO’s Orafti Synergy1 (oligofructose-enriched inulin) produces positive effects on bone health through enhanced calcium absorption, leading to increased bone mineral density, he added. “In addition, blood sugar can be managed effectively with these functional fibers. Inulin and oligofructose also act as fat and sugar replacers in a range of food applications.”
BENEO’s inulin and oligofructose also have the additional natural properties of fat and sugar replacement, helping to control blood glucose levels as sugar is removed and fiber is added. “Because oligofructose has sugar-like technical properties such as high solubility and a sugar-like sensory profile, it works well to partially replace sugar in a range of food products,” said Mr. O’Neill. “Inulin is used as a fat replacer in foods. With water, inulin forms a gel of creamy consistency, which has a mouthfeel and consistency similar to fat, as well as offering a neutral taste and color.”
Frutarom’s Mr. Lind noted that psyllium husk offers value for its mucilage and water-absorbing properties, stool softening effects and promotion of healthy bowel movements. “Fenugreek fiber has similar properties and Frutarom’s FenuLife absorbs water in the stomach, creating a viscous mass which has a dual function. It promotes satiety by filling space in the stomach and therefore promoting a feeling of fullness. FenuLife also provides protection to the stomach lining and esophageal tract via the mucilage and has been clinically effective in treating GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). Because FenuLife slows down the digestive process, it has a beneficial effect on blood glucose levels.”
With an exceptional safety profile and functional health benefits, fibers offer tremendous value in today’s market, Mr. Lind added. “Prebiotic properties have certainly re-invigorated the category, and as with FenuLife’s effect on GERD (providing an alternative to prescription drugs) with little to no side effects demonstrates that there’s certainly more to learn about the health properties of fiber. The safety and multi-functionality of fiber make it an important and versatile ingredient with a place in the market for years to come.”
Notable Sources & Factors
Not all fiber sources are equal, according to Cathy Dorko, product manager, Active Nutrition, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, KS. “They all have different toleration thresholds. Certain fiber types can pose digestive issues—laxation and gassiness—when used at efficacious levels. Depending on the fiber source, there may be off flavors, which will impact the formulation.”
The DuPont Danisco portfolio of fibers includes Litesse polydextrose soluble fiber and FIBRIM (insoluble) soy fiber, which can help in reducing energy intake through their use in products that are less calorically dense or that have a lower glycemic response. High fiber diets are associated with weight reduction, lower BMI, delayed gastric emptying and increased satiety, and high fiber foods typically have lower energy density, said Ms. Dorko.
Scientific evidence suggests that soy fiber, such as FIBRIM may play a role in glucose attenuation and blood glucose regulation, she added. Incorporation of soy fiber can lower the glycemic index of a food when compared to the same food without soy fiber, thus offering potential satiety and weight management benefits.
“Litesse polydextrose is a highly branched polymer of glucose, which is recognized as a soluble dietary fiber. Its unique arrangement of glycosidic linkages makes it resistant to hydrolysis by human digestive enzymes; therefore, following ingestion it passes intact into the colon where it is partially fermented by the colonic microflora. In this way Litesse contributes an energy value of just one calorie per gram.”
Four separate human clinical studies have shown that Litesse can enhance satiety, thereby reducing subsequent energy intake. “Litesse polydextrose is application-friendly. Because of its high solubility and stability, it is also an extremely versatile ingredient to formulate with. It is very well tolerated, has a clean flavor and has been used in the food industry for more than 30 years.”
The importance of integrating fiber in the daily diet is now taking hold in consumers’ understanding of a healthy and balanced lifestyle, noted Glanbia’s Ms. Rees. “Seeds such as chia and flaxseed represent some of the best natural sources of fiber, with the respective amounts of 20% and 38%. By comparison, it’s estimated that average quantities of fiber in whole grains such as wheat, oats, sorghum and quinoa are around 12%.”
When selecting a source of fiber, it’s important to consider the processing of the seed or grain, since this can affect the total fiber level and other nutrients, she added. “Flaked or puffed forms of grains cannot only add textural interest to products, but also enhance the nutritional value, making it easier for consumers to meet the recommended daily intake.”
The Food Directorate of Health Canada recently published a report confirming the beneficial effects of fiber supplementation through the intake of flaxseed: “The evidence consistently supports a direction of effect towards a reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels when ground flaxseed is consumed.”
Earlier this year, Health Canada accepted the health claim linking the ingestion of ground whole flaxseed to cholesterol lowering, a major risk factor for heart disease. Evidence showed the daily consumption of five tablespoons (40 grams) of ground flaxseed helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Canada is now the first country to allow a health-related claim for flaxseed for use on food labels.
Overall, Frutarom’s Mr. Lind said the fiber market will remain stable with significant opportunities for growth, primarily in new clinical uses for fibers such as prebiotics for mitigating blood glucose, and a natural alternative to drugs for treating a range of digestive tract and GI disorders. “Fibers primarily operate on a physical (bulking and creating mucilage with water) effect and present less of a concern than prescription medications may, over the long term.”
Moving forward, FDA’s recent proposed rule changes to nutrition and supplement facts labels includes a restrictive formal definition of dietary fiber. According to Andrea Wong, PhD, vice president, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), Washington, D.C., isolated and synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units) will only meet the proposed definition if: a) FDA grants their inclusion in the definition in response to a petition demonstrating that such carbohydrates have a physiological effect(s) that is beneficial to human health; or b) they are the subject of an authorized health claim.
“Currently, only two isolated fibers, beta-glucan soluble fiber and barley beta-fiber, are the subject of authorized health claims. The proposed definition will put a significant burden on manufacturers and marketers of innovative fiber products to conduct human studies showing a beneficial physiological effect, and to submit a petition to FDA for review. If these investments are not made, companies may find themselves unable to continue marketing their products as dietary fiber, along with the associated claimed health benefits.”