Taking a fresh look at fibre ingredients

12 Jul 2019

Fibre has had a makeover in recent years boosted by new research and regulation, and food and drink companies are looking at different ways to use fibre ingredients to add value to their products.

Gut health is a major trend in western markets; a third of UK consumers and 44% of US consumers say they are increasing their fibre intake, most often for digestive health reasons, according to 2018 figures from Innova Market Insights. Meanwhile, consumers are beginning to understand that fibre may have benefits well beyond the gut, and researchers now suspect it could impact bone health, immunity, and even the brain.

Taking a fresh look at fibre ingredients
Companies are looking at new options for added fibre

On the research front, emerging evidence suggests fibre could protect against bowel cancer and diseases associated with obesity, such as type 2 diabetes. Different fibres have different functions; it is well-established that insoluble fibre is important for increasing stool bulk, for instance, while soluble fibre can reduce blood serum cholesterol levels and limit spikes in blood sugar. Better awareness of fibre’s importance has led to increased interest in fibre ingredients across age groups, although most western consumers still consume far less than the average recommendation of about 30 grams per day.

Fibre ingredient suppliers and manufacturers also have benefited from US Food and Drug Administration guidance released in 2018, expanding its list of recognised dietary fibres for ingredient panels. Supplier Beneo, for example, welcomed the addition of chicory root fibre to the list, saying that the recognition would likely also increase awareness of the role of prebiotics for digestive health. MGP Ingredients later petitioned the FDA to include its resistant starch 4 ingredient, and the agency confirmed that RS4 fibre sources would also qualify – a decision from which fellow RS4 supplier Ingredion also stands to benefit.

Several food manufacturers reportedly had been awaiting the FDA’s guidance on dietary fibres to finalise their NPD plans for products related to sugar reduction and gut health. According to Innova, the leading fibres tracked in new products in 2017 were inulin, oligofructose and polydextrose, all of which are commonly used in reduced-sugar products.

Despite their health benefits, however, added fibre ingredients can be challenging for product developers, as adding too much to a food or drink can produce an unappealing taste or texture. According to Innova, the number of new food and beverage products with added fibre increased 11% a year from 2013 to 2017, and while baked goods remained the leading category, sports nutrition was the fastest growing, with a CAGR of 28%.

Drinks with added fibre were also growing fast, particularly as suppliers like Tate & Lyle and Archer Daniels Midland have come up with soluble fibre ingredients intended for health-focused drinks like juices and meal-replacement beverages. Demand for fibre ingredients touches on other consumer trends too. CP Kelco, for instance, has introduced a citrus fibre ingredient that combines both soluble and insoluble fibres from citrus peels, targeting consumer demand for clean label products.