What does the future hold for low-FODMAP foods?

5 Aug 2019

Low-FODMAP foods are experiencing strong growth, according to Innova Market Insights – but do these gut-friendly claims have long-term staying power?

FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) are short-chain carbohydrates found in many fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy foods and sweeteners, and for some people, they are thought to cause the gastrointestinal distress and bloating associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Such foods are fermented by gut bacteria and draw water into the stomach and intestines, causing excess gas production. The exact prevalence of IBS is difficult to ascertain, but is widely estimated at around 10-20% of the global population.

What does the future hold for low-FODMAP foods?

Innova Market Insights notes that the number of new foods and drinks carrying a low-FODMAP claim increased an average of 130% a year from 2014 to 2018, and is seen across all global regions. The greatest number of claims has been in sauces and seasonings, and Innova says a low-FODMAP claim featured on 40% of new product launches in the category in 2018, compared to 25% in 2014. Meanwhile, low-FODMAP claims on bakery launches went from zero in 2014 to 15% in the five-year period.

For consumers with IBS symptoms triggered by these fermentable foods, cutting back on and replacing naturally occurring FODMAPs is a top concern. But Finnish company Fazer Mills has developed an enzyme solution for low-FODMAP baking, which breaks down the fructan in wheat and rye, allowing people who avoided bread and other baked goods to enjoy them without discomfort.

Fazer Mills even suggests that low-FODMAP diets could be the next gluten free, as a growing body of scientific research points to fructan, rather than gluten, as the compound in wheat that triggers symptoms in people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Compared to gluten free bread, the company claims that low-FODMAP bread has a taste and texture much closer to that of ordinary bread. This could ensure much broader consumer interest, as texture in particular is a major challenge in the production of gluten free baked goods.

Kerry Group also has highlighted low-FODMAP diets as a market opportunity that could be comparable in scale with the gluten free trend. For manufacturers, the company suggests formulating with healthy, low-FODMAP ingredients – and using a low-FODMAP certification to draw attention to their efforts.

For consumers following a low-FODMAP diet, it is important to replace healthy high-FODMAP foods with ones that provide similar nutrition. Kerry points out that for companies aiming to target this consumer group, it is therefore important to ensure that solutions contain all the nutrients that people would normally get from high-FODMAP foods, including micronutrients and non-digestible fibres, if possible.

As consumer awareness of digestive health continues to grow, it seems the time is right for low-FODMAP products to take off, especially as gluten free diets may only go so far toward addressing some consumers’ digestive symptoms. Manufacturers that seek certification now could get ahead of a burgeoning trend – and claim market share ahead of their rivals.