Fiber is under intense consumer scrutiny

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Eating more fiber has been on consumers’ to-do lists for decades. Everyone knows that fiber helps with digestion, satiety, and overall gut health. And as people age, motivation to eat better increases, research reveals.

“In a recent Health Focus International survey on behalf of Beneo, 85% of people aged 50+ showed a willingness to take charge of their health, realizing that their short-term health depends on how well they take care of themselves. on their own,” says Anke Sentko, vice president of regulatory affairs and nutrition communications at Beneowhich manufactures inulin and oligofructose, which are fibrous ingredients in the “inulin-like fructan” category.

“A key way to do this is to change what they eat and drink,” she continues, “with 30% of consumers aged 50 and over saying the main reason they choose foods and drinks products is to ensure their good future health, with an additional 28% choosing these products to improve their daily health.

What seems to be changing — and it’s affecting how food processors market the fiber content of their products — are why consumers want fiber in their food. Sure, people still want to eat things that make their bathroom times more satisfying, but they also want the dozens of other benefits that fiber provides, from lowering cholesterol to preventing cancer.

“The reasons why we are looking for more fibers have expanded – amplifying and evolving this trend [of adding fiber to food],” said Wendy Bazilian, doctor of public health and nutritionist and consultant to the food industry. “High fiber was once code for ‘digestion’, as if to shift digestion and promote regularity. Interest and research in the gut microbiome has exploded over the past two decades, and research and interest in many nutrients and areas around the gut are hot.

Hot Fiber Attributes

The FDA identified two classes of fiber when it published its formal definition of dietary fiber in 2016: natural fibers that are “intrinsic and intact” in plants and “isolated or synthetic indigestible carbohydrates (with 3 monomer units or plus) determined by the FDA to have physiological effects beneficial to human health.

“Intrinsic and intact” fibers are those found naturally in grains, fruits and vegetables. Whole wheat bread, for example, contains the bran of the wheat kernel, the fiber-rich outer layer. According to the FDA, “foods containing these fibers have been shown to be beneficial and manufacturers do not need to demonstrate that they have beneficial physiological effects on human health.”

Fiber in the “isolated or synthetic” category is not necessarily less nutritious than natural fiber, it is simply not an intact part of a plant. Fibers in this category include inulin, guar gum, pectin, locust bean gum, psyllium husk, and beta-glucan soluble fiber.

Both categories of fiber have nutritional attributes that go beyond the classic fiber benefit of a better toilet. Consumers today are turning to fiber for cholesterol lowering, healthy gut bacteria, appetite regulation, sustained energy, cancer-fighting benefits and more. The good thing is that fiber can actually do these things.

Take lowering cholesterol, for example: “Soluble fiber can reduce the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream,” the Mayo Clinic website states. “Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber per day lowers your LDL cholesterol levels. A serving of breakfast cereal with oatmeal or oat bran provides 3 to 4 grams of fiber.

Quaker Oat Bran, for example, boasts on its label, “As part of a heart-healthy diet, the soluble fiber in oat bran helps lower cholesterol!”

Because fiber makes foods more filling — and because it replaces some of the functional properties of sugar — it also has indirect benefits for heart health. For example, inulin, a fiber made from chicory root, is used to reduce calories in baked goods. It can replace some of the sugar content while helping to retain the taste and texture that consumers expect.

“In terms of additional health benefits, Beneo’s Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose (Chicory Root Fiber) reduce the glycemic response of foods by replacing sugar or other high glycemic index carbohydrates in formulations. foods and at the same time fortifies those foods with fiber content, helping to close the fiber gap,” notes Denisse Colindres, Nutrition Communications Manager, North America at Beneo.

The benefits of fiber for cancer prevention are also important these days, of course. Research from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) shows that every 10 gram increase in dietary fiber is linked to a 7% decrease in the risk of colorectal cancer. “It is possible that fiber also plays a role in reducing the risk of other cancers, but this evidence is still very limited,” AICR nutrition advisor Karen Collins said during a webinar on the topic.

The ability to promote cancer prevention on a label can certainly entice consumers. The label of Arnold Stone Ground Whole Wheat Bread offers an example: “Diets rich in whole grain and other plant foods and low in fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease and of certain cancers.

Finally, fiber can support popular diets. The keto diet, for example, limits carbs, which are a popular source of fiber (think bread). So, a food product that provides lots of fiber without the carbs will sell well among keto enthusiasts.

“Fiber as an ingredient has the benefit of helping a food be keto-friendly, but can also be marketed ‘high in fiber’ if the amount meets the claim definitions,” Bazilian says.

Chia flour added to baked goods, for example, helps make it keto-friendly, she says. This flour is high in fiber, naturally gluten-free and a good source of omega-3s. An example of a product that uses chia is Riverside Natural Foods Good to Go Baked Snacks. The company uses Benexia Xia fiber in its baked goods to increase fiber content and eliminate certain other ingredients, including hydrocolloids.

In addition to touting the ability to fight cancer, heart disease, and other scourges, many fiber-based brands boast of being clean label, sustainable, and more.

“Decades ago, fiber was just fiber. Now people want to reap the benefits of fiber and they want to know where it comes from,” she says. “What is the source? Where does the fiber come from? If the fiber source contributes to texture or shelf life, that’s what makes the fiber even more valuable to the food product and the development team.

Connecting fiber content

Adding fiber to a processed food product won’t help sales if consumers don’t know about it, of course. Smart marketers pay attention to what consumers want to hear — less talk about going to the bathroom — while being acutely aware of FDA labeling regulations.

Cascadian Farm’s “Hearty Morning Fiber” organic cereal is a good example of a product that’s high in fiber but doesn’t emphasize “the best-for-you bathroom experience,” Bazilian says. Instead, the brand advertises the organic nature of its fiber-containing elements, the fact that it is non-GMO, and that it supports sustainable farming practices.

Compare that to Uncle Sam’s Cereal, a brand introduced in 1908 that once used the slogan “a natural laxative.” That was a long time ago, of course, and the cereal, which is owned by Post and sold by its Three Sisters business unit, now boasts being vegan and heart-healthy on the label. These factors are clearly more attractive to breakfast cereal buyers than improved bowel movements.

When it comes to FDA regulations, it’s no coincidence that the makers of Finncrisp Sour Dough Rye Thins use almost exactly the same language regarding cancer and fiber as the makers of Arnold Stone Ground Whole Wheat:” Diets high in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

The reason the two companies use this language isn’t because they use the same editor – it’s because they closely follow FDA rules. As with all health claims, the FDA is strict about what brands can say about cancer prevention. They propose two “model” claims:

  • “Low-fat diets high in grain products, fruits and vegetables containing fiber may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, a disease associated with many factors.”
  • “The development of cancer depends on many factors. A diet low in fat and high in grain products, fruits and vegetables containing dietary fiber may reduce your risk of certain cancers.

Adding fiber to processed foods is a trend that’s been building for decades, but it doesn’t seem likely to let up, especially as consumers age and look for new ways to stay healthy.

“Interestingly, over the past 10 years, consumer attention has shifted from acute life-threatening conditions as the top global health issue to those centered on everyday life and aging” , says Sentko.

“As people age, the gut microbiome changes, weakening the internal defense system,” she continues. “The benefits that nutrition can offer in terms of supporting gut health and strengthening the internal defense system are of growing interest to older consumers, especially as 50% are extremely or very concerned about gastrointestinal issues. intestinal/digestive and 56% by their immune health. ”

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