08 Feb 2021 — Consumers are increasingly looking for functional fiber ingredients that address specific health and wellness goals during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is an increased interest in functional fiber ingredients due to more people linking gut health and the microbiome to overall holistic well-being. FoodIngredientsFirst speaks with key players who share their insights on the fiber scene.
In line with the trend of personalized nutrition, there will be a variety of new fiber ingredients available to help consumers fit their unique lifestyles, says Susanne Sörgel, senior director, platform strategy for pectin and carrageenan at CP Kelco.
“Three categories which will be in the spotlight will be cereal fibers, soluble fibers and fruit fibers such as citrus fiber,” she notes.
Benefits beyond the gut
According to Veerle Dam, scientific and regulatory affairs specialist at Sensus, consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of gut health as they realize that not only does it impact on improved digestion, but also benefits beyond the gut, such as immunity, which is essential considering the current pandemic.
“Another aspect of gut health that receives increasing attention recently is its association with immunity, inflammation and metabolic health,” she says.
The past few years’ consumer research shows that consumers are more conscientious about maintaining and improving their health. This trend has gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The demand for better-for-you food products, especially those positively affecting the gut and immune health, is drastically increasing, and there are no signs that this will subside. Besides the improved health benefits, consumers are more aware than ever of the origin of their foods and prefer natural, plant-based food products for their healthy indulgences,” explains Jolanda Vermulst, manager of market intelligence at Sensus.
Fiber intake is becoming almost as important to consumers as protein, adds Käte Davis, senior director, pioneering innovation at CP Kelco.
“Consumers have always associated fiber with digestive health, but the idea of developing fiber-rich food that tastes good is now a bonus. New fiber ingredients make it possible to add fiber without altering taste and texture – or causing digestive distress, and we see more high fiber claims on products. Because of this, fiber-rich foods have great potential for success,” she asserts.
Chicory root gains ground
According to Beneo, 56 percent of European consumers associate prebiotics with immune health.
“There are windows of opportunity for producers who can harness these concerns, which is why our prebiotic chicory root fibers are proving very popular with food and drink producers alike,” says Annelore De Boe, product manager for functional fibers at Beneo.
“However, demand for chicory root fiber was already high before the COVID-19 pandemic, and the trend has now been accelerated, meaning supply can be tight. This is why Beneo has invested more than €50 million (US$60 million) to increase the capacity of our chicory plant in Pemuco, Chile, to meet the growing demand.”
A growing number of manufacturers seek out chicory root fiber to create great tasting healthy food products, adds Vermulst, at Sensus.
“The chicory inulin market has seen rapid growth, and the peak is still ahead of us. Chicory inulin and oligofructose will strongly lead the prebiotic fiber market,” she explains.
“The natural verified versatile chicory root fiber fits very well in trends like clean label, plant-based, gut health, mental well-being and immunity.”
Health claims supporting healthy food products are therefore of interest to food manufacturers, and products using Sensus chicory inulin can display a digestive health claim on the packaging even in Europe,” says Vermulst.
“A recent study at the University of Calgary with Prof. Raylene Reimer has shown that intakes as low as 3 g of Sensus chicory root fiber a day can impact the microbiome and show a bifidogenic effect,” she comments.
Chicory root fiber has been widely used in cereal bars in North America for years, and this application is also growing strongly in Asia and Europe now, Vermulst reveals. “What is also striking is that chicory root fiber is still growing worldwide within reduced sugar bakery and dairy applications,” she states.
According to Brigitte Peters, technical sales support at Sensus, insoluble fibers significantly affect texture and mouthfeel when added to food products.
“They usually absorb a lot of water, might result in off-flavor and provide physical particles in the final product. Water-soluble fibers, like chicory root fiber, don’t show these disadvantages,” she comments.
“With the neutral or clean sweet taste, they do not affect the taste negatively. This makes them applicable in an extensive range of food products, not only for fiber enrichment. Chicory root fiber has the proven ability to replace sugar, fat or both. With the lower caloric content reformulating products using chicory root fiber results in products with several health benefits: less calorie, more fiber and a better nutritional profile.”
Fiber in applications
According to Sarah Diedrich, marketing director for sweetening solutions and Fibers at ADM, many applications can benefit from added fiber, including sports nutrition products, beverages, baked goods, dairy products and desserts.
“In fact, according to Hartman Fiber Occasions (2019), ﬁber is present in 22 percent of all eating and drinking occasions,” she adds.
“Adding fiber to sports nutrition products is a great way to target satiety and weight management, which many everyday athletes seek,” Diedrich maintains.
“We also see fiber standing out in the better-for-you category of snacks as consumers are looking for added nutrition while snacking. Crackers, flatbreads and biscuits can specifically benefit from our Fibersol ingredient as it maintains a desired texture in the application.”
Additionally, it enhances crispiness in baked goods like cookies and allows for sugar reduction by as much as 25 percent, she adds. “Chips, snack mixes and other crunchy bites maintain a crisp texture and may gain an extended shelf life with Fibersol. Our soluble fiber is also a great solution for keto diet foods.”
Sörgel at CP Kelco believes fiber helps trends collide, especially in the areas of sugar reduction, calorie reduction and overall feelings of well-being.
“Consumers are increasingly interested in foods and beverages that deliver functional health benefits. In protein bars and beverages, for example, fiber can be added to help cut calories and sugar, as it leads to a feeling of satiety and aids in digestion and gut health.”
“Besides the popular snack category of protein bars and baked goods, we expect fiber ingredients to stand out in beverages, condiments, sauces, soups and meat in the months ahead,” she affirms.
We also know that formulators must balance a lot – achieving their clean label goals, such as using sustainably sourced ingredients or having fewer ingredients on the label, with solving functional challenges like stabilization and suspension, all while delivering the mouthfeel, taste and flavor perception that consumers expect in a competitive market,” Sörgel explains.
That was the main reason CP Kelco developed NUTRAVA Citrus Fiber, which is sourced from an abundant raw material supply of citrus peels, a byproduct of the juicing industry.
“This next-generation ingredient supports dietary fiber intake while providing emulsion stabilization and moisture control, and supporting fat, sugar and salt reduction efforts. It can even serve as an egg substitute in vegan food products,” concludes Sörgel.
By Elizabeth Green
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