Feeling good inside and out: Consumers seek fiber for gut health
01 Nov 2018 --- Fiber holds increasing potential for manufacturers as an ingredient that can be added to products to throw in an extra dash of health and satiety. Due to its strong prebiotic value, consumers are increasingly recognizing the health benefits that a fibrous diet can bring – beyond keeping you regular. Further bringing fiber into the spotlight, eight specific fibers were greenlighted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a regulatory announcement earlier this year, meaning that the promoted fibers can be classified as “dietary fibers” on the upcoming Nutrition Facts Label. Fiber is a key ingredient for feeling good inside and out.
The eight new fibers approved by the FDA are mixed plant cell wall fibers (a broad category that includes fibers like sugar cane fiber and apple fiber, among many others); arabinoxylan; alginate; inulin and inulin-type fructans; high amylose starch (resistant starch 2); galactooligosaccharide; polydextrose; and resistant maltodextrin/dextrin.
The leading fibers tracked in new product launch activity in 2017 were inulin, oligofructose and polydextrose, according to Innova Market Insights. Added fiber claims are present in a range of categories, such as the sports nutrition category, with Innova Market Insights data displaying a 32 percent CAGR of sports nutrition products with a fiber claim globally over the past five years.
According to key fiber suppliers, this regulatory recognition of fibers presents an exciting space for NPD going forward.
“Various food manufacturers have been waiting on this FDA confirmation before continuing or finalizing NPD projects in various areas such as fiber benefit related to digestive health and sugar replacement,” Dr. Elaine Vaughan, Manager Scientific and Regular Affairs at Sensus, tells NutritionInsight. “The FDA’s inclusion of chicory root fiber as a dietary fiber in its new food labeling regulations allows companies to promote their products as sources of dietary fiber.”
“Thanks to this extended choice of fibers, delivering fiber enrichment in a great tasting way can now become a reality for many manufacturers,” Anke Sentko, Vice President Regulatory Affairs & Nutrition Communication at Beneo tells NutritionInsight.
Feeling good inside and out
Essentially, most people do not get enough fiber in their diets. Earlier this year, a Public Health England survey found that only 9 percent of adults were achieving the daily intake goal of 30g. Yet, as consumer knowledge around the microbiome and its connection to overall health and well-being grows, so does their interest in fiber and prebiotics.
“Consumer interest in digestive health and wellbeing is constantly on the rise and is already at a high level. With chicory root fibers inulin and oligofructose being the only proven plant-based prebiotics currently on the market, digestive wellbeing can be addressed in versatile product development and supported by strong human intervention studies,” says Sentko.
The importance of fiber is intimately tied with gut microbes. A healthy, fibrous diet helps the gut bacteria to thrive. The more microbes that are in the intestine, the thicker the mucus wall and the better the barrier between the body and the bacterial population. This mucus wall has been found to protect the body from infection. While the mucus barrier helps lower inflammation throughout the body, the bacteria aid in digestion, creating a dual benefit.
“More consumers are hearing about prebiotics and the microbiome and although specific claims are still limited, dietary fiber is beginning to be credited for far more than just laxation,” Cecilia Shiroma-Kian, Director of Global Product Management, Health and Wellness, at Tate & Lyle, tells NutritionInsight.
“Food and beverage manufacturers have the opportunity to appeal to specific age groups with relevant benefits provided by different fibers,” she adds.
Indeed, Digestive/gut health ranks as the most popular active health positioning in global product launch activity tracked in 2016, according to Innova Market Insights data. It accounted for 28 percent of active health product launches, followed by sports & recovery (20 percent) and energy/alertness (20 percent). Products that carry a gut-health claim continue to catch consumers' eye.
A second pillar in fibers growth potential is sugar reduction.
“Globally, sugar reduction is a key priority for many consumer audiences so it is no surprise that the food and beverage industry is actively using fiber for sugar replacement across many categories such as beverages, bakery, dairy and more,” Shiroma-Kian explains.
Innova Market Insights data reflects this notion, highlighting that the percentage share of sugar claims (low sugar/no added sugar/ sugar-free) in new snack launches has grown from two percent in 2012 to almost four percent in 2018. The space for alternative sweeteners and sugar reduction is arguably ripe for innovation, as some research, such as a paper published in Molecules, noted that a few FDA-approved artificial sweeteners could be toxic to gut microbes.
As a fibrous sugar replacement, Tate & Lyle offer Promitor soluble fiber and Sta-Lite Polydextrose. “They replace bulk, mouthfeel and other functional attributes required to build back when sugar is reduced,” Shiroma-Kian adds.
Speaking to NutritionInsight at IFT Expo 2018 earlier this year, Jon Peters, President at Beneo, also noted that a continuing trend for fiber is reduction in sugar. “The [FDA] ruling makes it clear that inulin can be used as a replacement for sugar as we have been promoting it for many years. You get the double benefit of the replacement of sugars with dietary fibers, bringing those health benefits to consumers.”
The FDA recognition, as well as growing consumer awareness, have combined to create a space ripe for ample innovation around the health benefits of fiber, which will hopefully pave the way for exciting NPD across a range of categories.
By Laxmi Haigh
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