Closing “the fiber gap”: Functional fiber space is ripe for innovation

functional-food-trend

Fiber-rich foods are known to deliver health benefits, mainly with a pronounced focus on gut health. This is why they are popular among today’s health-conscious consumers and are touted as a key trend for 2020. Moreover, “wellness” has become a lifestyle focus for many and fiber is aligned to this trend. Consumers understand and recognize the benefits of “fiber” and increasingly seek foods and beverages that are better-for-them, thus fueling healthier lifestyles. FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at fiber ingredients and the drivers behind the trend.

There is a growing interest in fiber and this is expected to remain a theme throughout 2020. Forty-four percent of US consumers say they have increased their consumption of fiber (Innova Market Insights consumer survey 2018). 

“This places fiber almost at the same level as protein as a top benefit in the eyes of consumers,” Susanne Sörgel, Senior Director, Platform Strategy, Pectin and Carrageenan at CP Kelco, tells FoodIngredientsFirst

“The clean label megatrend is now the norm and ingredients play a more important role. There is a push for manufacturers not only to simplify or reduce ingredients on their labels but also have them be consumer-friendly and deliver added function to fuel healthy lifestyles,” she explains. 

Fiber can also play a critical role in sugar-reduction formulation, a growing number of products support both fiber and sugar claims. For example, in 2018, 16 percent of products launched with a high fiber claim also came with a no-added-sugar claim and 10 percent came with a low-sugar claim, according to Innova Market Insights.

In addition, there is also a high overlap between products with fiber claims and high/source of protein claims (40 percent), allergy claims such as gluten-free (27 percent), as well as vegan, organic and no additives/preservatives claims (25 percent).

In recent years, the fiber food space has been highly competitive. Products launched with fiber claims have shown tremendous growth over the past five years (23 percent). The most active categories for new product launches with fiber claims are in bakery, cereal and sports nutrition, according to Innova Market Insights’ data. 

Fibre comes with a health halo and is easy for consumers to understand.
Fiber comes with a health halo and is easy for consumers to understand. 

Health halos and taste maintain significance
Fiber comes with a health halo and is easy for consumers to understand. Linked to the overall health and wellness trend, fiber is also associated with good gut health and is essential for managing blood sugar levels. “For consumers, finding new ways of adding fiber to your diet can be appealing,” Sörgel asserts. 

According to Thomas Schmidt, Marketing Director at Beneo, many consumers struggle with reaching their daily recommended intake of fiber. However, the 2017 Beneo prebiotic research found that more than a third of Europeans agree with the statement that “a healthy lifestyle is important to me and looking after my digestive health is part of it.”

In this space, Schmidt also notes that on-pack claims that appear the most appealing to consumers are “high in fiber,” “promotes digestive health” and “prebiotic.”

“As well as incorporating appealing, functional benefits such as ‘prebiotic’ on-pack, taste remains the most critical factor to encourage consumer repeat purchasing,” he adds. 

The term “prebiotic” is also gaining traction across Europe. According to 2017 Beneo prebiotic research, consumers agree that “the term prebiotic sounds healthy,” and two out of three European respondents consider the term “prebiotic” to be appealing. 

By developing great tasting products that offer added digestive health benefits, as well as meeting the needs of major consumer trends, food manufacturers can help consumers keep their digestive systems healthy, naturally and with ease, without having to make any significant changes to their lifestyle or diet, or to sacrifice on taste or texture, explains Schmidt. 

Functionality and opportunities out of traditional fiber use 
For Karin Meissner, Cargill Business Development Manager, Fibers, it is clear that “fiber enrichment statements appeal to a broad base of consumers as a means to help them reach their healthy diet goals. However, fibers have another important role to play: by helping brands achieve calorie – and sugar-reduction formulation goals,” she comments.

In many applications, fibers can serve as low calorie bulking agents, bringing back lost volume and replacing some of sugar’s functional attributes, Meissner notes. Fibers also fit with “clean label” trends. “Consumers want to recognize the ingredients used in their foods and understand where those ingredients come from. Plant-sourced fibers offer a label-friendly option that can easily be incorporated into a range of applications, from ice cream to baked goods. Fibers have a lot to offer in foods, so it’s no surprise that manufacturers today prioritize reformulation with added fibers,” Meissner explains. 

Jolanda Vermulst, Manager Market Intelligence at Sensus, also agrees with this notion. “The list of specific benefits that consumers want to obtain from fiber foods is long. It includes improving general health, supporting immunity, improving digestive health, decreasing calories, increasing fiber intake, eating plant-based and natural,” she tells FoodIngredientsFirst

“For decades, professionals from all sectors of the food, nutrition and health space have been urging consumers to include more fiber in their diet. Despite this long-held attention and buzz around healthy food generally and fiber, in particular, most consumers fall short in actually including enough fiber in their diets,” she states. 

“The mounting evidence for the need to increase fiber intake has not appreciably changed the fact that only a relatively small proportion of consumers eat the recommended amount of fiber daily – therefore a ‘fiber gap’ persists,” Vermulst notes. 

According to Sörgel, this space is still emerging and is ripe for innovation. “In this space, CP Kelco’s NUTRAVA Citrus Fiber, can support sugar and/or fat reduction, egg substitution and other clean label reformulation requirements,” she adds.

Recently, the gut microbiota has been the subject of research indicating that dietary changes such as increased dietary fiber can influence mood and behavior, via interaction with these bacteria. 

Gut and brain health propels
Meanwhile, links between the community of bacteria living in our gut and the brain have been established. Recently, the gut microbiota has been the subject of research indicating that dietary changes such as increased dietary fiber can influence mood and behavior, via interaction with these bacteria. 

“An emergent and exciting branch of research has begun to elucidate a communication pathway between gut bacteria and the central nervous system, the so-called gut-brain axis,” Vermulst affirms. “Thus, future research into the gut microbiome-brain communication and dietary components as prebiotics may be applied to improve various aspects of mental health such as mood.”

“As more and more effects of fiber intake are demonstrated, we expect gut health and microbiome modulation will stay hot topics for 2020,” she adds. 

“As scientists continue to unlock the secrets of the microbiome and the links between the gut-brain axis, the importance of digestive wellness to consumers will continue to grow,” Schmidt further adds. “With this in mind, we expect the cross-category phenomenon of digestive wellness to further increase in importance over the coming years, with more new product developments to be seen in categories such as dairy, baby food, beverage, snacks, bakery and cereals,” he notes. 

New horizons for inulin?
Julian Mellentin of New Nutrition Business is an international specialist in the business of food, nutrition and health. Mellentin highlighted the potential for inulin, naming it a top ingredient for 2020 in the new report, 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition and Health 2020, stating: “For companies who choose to use inulin in their brands for digestive benefits, a big plus is that it delivers a ‘feel-the benefit’ effect – one of the most compelling reasons for someone to keep buying a product and one of the most significant marketing advantages you can have.”

Additionally, Mellentin says that the use of inulin in brands for digestive benefits delivers a “feel-the-benefit” effect, which is a significant reason for consumers to repeat-purchase products. 

Vermulst also notes that as people age, they find themselves dealing with more health issues and changes in nutritional needs. “Fibers, and especially inulin and oligofructose, have been shown to provide several health benefits, especially for the elderly population,” she comments. 

Several government programs aiming to educate consumers have been enacted, so that they will take responsibility for a healthy lifestyle, preferably starting at a young age, she states. “To support consumers, the food industry has to take responsibility and provide basic food products with lower sugar levels. Sensus ingredients, specifically Frutafit inulin and Frutalose oligofructose, have proven to be helpful to lower sugar and calorie level in a wide range of food products,” adds Vermulst. 

Paul Vennik, Director Marketing and Sales at Sensus, says the most significant challenge moving forward could be “wannabe dietary fibers.” That is fibers that claim to be of natural origin but that are synthetic and therefore, cannot be found in nature. “The consumer will not accept these artificial fibers as they go 180 degrees against the trend of being natural and plant-based. It is, therefore, important that consumers are well informed about the differences in fibers for them to make a natural choice,” he comments. 

“Knowing that, inulin is predicted to be the 2020 ingredient of the year, consumer interest will boost many developments,” he concludes.

Original article sourced from https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/

Scroll to Top