The importance of fiber brings appeal to functional foods.
For years, via advertisements and pure word-of-mouth, individuals have not only praised the wonders of fiber, but how important it is to consume it. Insoluble fiber for instance, helps digestive health, such as through combatting constipation (mayoclinic.org). According to pubmed.gov, studies have also shown that ingesting fiber is associated with a lower body weight.
Of course, this only begins to scratch the surface on what the substance is capable of, as its positives not only attract consumers with different needs and conditions, but allows for a promising future in this realm as well. What makes it more appealing is the idea of adding it to functional foods.
Besides the aforementioned facts, fiber exists in two variations: soluble and insoluble, which either dissolve or remain solid when mixed with water.
As Hugh Welsh, president of DSM North America in New Jersey mentioned, a bulk of dietary fibers (fibers derived from plant foods that the body cannot digest) is being utilized in functional foods, due to the fact that the overall flavor is not compromised.
“Many isolated or synthetic dietary fibers are used because of their food functionality, meaning they can be easily incorporated into products to increase the dietary fiber content with minimal impact on sensory properties,” he said.
Manufacturers are aware that a product’s flavor is just as important as any other factor, but containing health benefits is certainly a positive attribute. Jolanda Vermulst, manager of market intelligence at ingredient manufacturer Sensus (The Netherlands), explained fiber’s potential for diabetes and cancer prevention.
“Fiber has an important role in the gastrointestinal tract,” she said. “Whilst it is still an issue under scientific debate, many studies have indicated that high dietary fiber intake could help in prevention of colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes.”
Furthermore, there are additional pros that suppliers and consumers may not be aware of.
“Dietary fibers are added to functional foods to provide physiological health benefits to consumers,” said Dr. TP Rao, assistant general manager at Taiyo Kagaku Co Ltd, Japan, an ingredient manufacturer that produces SunFiber, a soluble dietary fiber ingredient. “Food or beverage items, such as those products for weight loss (appetite control), glycemic reduction, body building (high protein diets, etc., would benefit from containing some added fiber.”
Rao said that in regard to weight loss, “these types of products would benefit from including a dietary fiber that offers a substantiated satiety effect. While most people understand that satiety is the lack of hunger, it should be noted that we are talking about a comfortable-satiety, or in other words, ‘satisfied and therefore not hungry.’ This is different from ‘not-hungry because of feeling bloated and uncomfortable.’ SunFiber is a soluble dietary fiber that has a clinically substantiated satiety effect.”
Being that these products are components of the natural products industry, natural fiber is also in high demand.
“Research has confirmed that consumers continue to be focused on healthier lifestyles with particular interest in natural fiber,” noted Jon Peters, president of New Jersey-based BENEO, Inc., manufacturers of natural food ingredient products. “Consumer research results show a clear preference for natural products—with as many as 47 percent of respondents actively seeking natural fibers—and 45 percent considering non-GMO (genetically modified organism) products as ‘better.’ BENEO’s chicory root fibers (inulin and oligofructose) are thus gaining great momentum among food and beverage manufacturers. Worldwide, the food industry is showing a very high interest in the chicory root fibers inulin and oligofructose. Both are the fibers that are used most in new product developments during the past 12 months (Innova Market Insights 2016).”
As a result of the excitement toward fiber innovation, this sort of feedback provides a sneak peak on how the market is playing out.
State of the Market
Fiber’s advantages are well known to most consumers. However, one of several issues is the fact that an average person’s diet in the United States may be lacking a significant amount of it.
“There is a strong understanding of the link between fiber and overall health, although diets in Western countries remain dramatically deficient in fiber,” noted Julie Impérato, marketing manager with Nexira (France), an ingredient supplier that produces Fibregum, an all-natural soluble dietary fiber. “This is why the dietary fiber market is still growing.”
Peters agreed. So what does an acceptable daily value of fiber consist of?
“U.S. consumers are aware of the beneficial effect fibers have on their overall health and well being, but the majority of them have difficulties reaching the recommended daily intake of fibers, which is 27 g/day for women and 32 g/day for men,” he said. “Both for women as for men in the U.S., there is a lack of fiber intake (averaging 12-15 g/day). “This is why fiber-fortified products that can be easily integrated into the daily diet are increasingly in demand.”
Such facts influence what ingredient suppliers and manufacturers are interested in when creating their products.
As a supplier or manufacturer, it is important to always be aware of how foods can be classified. Every company has a preference.
“Two types of fiber claims can be made on food products: 1. Structure/ function claims, or claims of well-being, which require that the food contains ≥10 percent of the daily value (DV), and 2. Health claims,” said Welsh. “While some ‘generic’ dietary fiber claims exist (eg. fiber-containing grain products, fruits, vegetables and cancer), consumer package goods companies and consumers prefer fiber sources that have been studied extensively and can carry claims with significant scientific agreement (e.g., soluble beta-glucan from oats and risk of heart disease).
Gone are the days when individuals simply believed what is written on a label. Rather, people want to see proven results—this would include trials and studies that were conducted showing physical proof.
“Knowledgeable consumers are no longer satisfied with one or two research trials. Research for today’s dietary fibers should provide an entire body of evidence,” added Bill Driessen, director of technical sales (Central U.S. and Latin America) at Taiyo International, Inc. in Minnesota. “It’s not enough to simply evaluate an ingredient and identify it as ‘dietary fiber.’
“Previously, an ingredient could show that it could be considered a ‘fiber’ (indigestible carbohydrate), he added. “Fiber was/is considered ‘healthy,’ so an ingredient company could tout their ingredient as healthy simply by showing it as a fiber. That has changed. To be considered a dietary fiber, ingredients now must demonstrate actual health benefits. The ingredient has to stand on its own, not simply ride on the label of being a ‘source of fiber.’”
The inquisitive nature of today’s society is what allows the world to keep progressing.
Down the Road
Just as history often comes full circle, the same can be said about research. The only difference is that as time progresses, research becomes more advanced.
“Beginning in the 1980s, fiber researchers began shifting their research focus from the definition and analytical methods used to measure dietary fiber content to studies on the physiological impact of fiber consumption—cholesterol reduction, satiety, blood glucose regulation, and laxation,” said Welsh. “There was increased effort to measure the end products of bacterial fermentation in the large bowel—short chain fatty acid production, gas production, microbial mass, etc. Today, molecular genotyping allows researchers to quantify microbial populations and report shifts in species attributable to diet and physical activity.”
Peters pointed out that BENEO’s chicory root fibers inulin and oligofructose have been the subject of more than 20 years of nutrition research and are among the best-researched prebiotic fibers worldwide. “The studies provide a comprehensive body of evidence and, to date, more than 150 high-quality human intervention studies for inulin and oligofructose are available. The studies deliver strong evidence for distinct health benefits, including digestive health (prebiotic effect, bowel function), weight management (eating less, naturally), blood glucose management and bone health (calcium absorption).”
Research and studies are an important indicator of health benefits—in this case, the greater the quantity of studies, the clearer one’s results will be. NIE
For More Information:
BENEO, Inc., (973) 867-2140
DSM North America (Royal DSM), (973) 257-1063
Nexira, +33 (0)2 32 83 18 18
Sensus, +31165 58 25 49
Taiyo International, Inc., (763) 398-3003
Taiyo Kagaku Co., Ltd., +81-90-4857-3422