Functional Ingredients: Consumers Reach for Fiber

Research indicates consumers understand and want fiber-containing products.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

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Food and beverage manufacturers should feel free to pack the nutritional benefits of a prebiotic fiber in their products, such as hot and cold cereals, meal replacement beverages and fruit juices, according to a new, vendor-sponsored study.

The 2011 study, conducted by third-party research firm Illuminas and sponsored by Tate & Lyle (www.tateandlyle.com), found nearly 90 percent of Americans believe digestive health is a top health priority, and half believe they need more fiber in their diets. To ensure they get dietary fiber in their diets, these same consumers are interested in buying products with added fiber.

With fiber associated with a variety of health and wellness benefits, 87 percent of respondents said it's important to get fiber into everyone's diet. Slightly fewer (81 percent) said it's essential for their children's diets.

But only 10 percent said they get all the fiber they need; 35 percent think they get "most" of what they need, and 46 percent get "some." Eight percent admit they get very little.

The survey asked 1,000 people to list their top health priorities. While heart-health came in first (with 69 percent calling it "very important" and a weighted score of 89) "managing healthy digestion" came in fifth out of nine responses (with 49 percent rating it very important and an overall score of 85). Interestingly, it got the most "second-place" votes, with 37 percent rating digestive health "quite important."

Fiber came in second among ingredients consumers say they need more of, with 47 percent looking for that ingredient (behind fruits & vegetables with 65 percent). Prebiotics garnered another 8 percent of votes.

Mintel Prebiotic Ingredient
Source: Mintel Global New Products Database;
new products 2006-2010

The survey concluded consumers have a fairly good understanding of fiber's benefits, with 79 percent saying it maintains healthy digestion, 65 percent agreeing that it supports good health generally and 56 percent knowing it protects against intestinal illnesses.

Other responses included "helps to manage weight," "helps you feel fuller longer" and "helps growth of live cultures." Twenty-six percent understood fiber improves absorption of calcium. Tate & Lyle officials say the low awareness of prebiotic benefits is an opportunity to educate consumers.

Consumers look to get more fiber by:

  • Including more fruits and vegetables in their diet (61 percent)
  • Including more whole grains (60 percent)
  • Buying "fiber products" (44 percent)
  • Looking at labels for fiber content (37 percent)
  • Shopping for foods with fiber claims (29 percent)
  • Taking a fiber supplement (23 percent)
  • Adding probiotics to their diet (12 percent)
  • Adding prebiotics to their diet (4 percent)

And perhaps most important for food processors, consumers indicated a willingness to pay a premium for fiber-enriched products across several food categories. Thirteen percent said they were "very likely" to pay more for cold breakfast cereals, cereal bars and bread/rolls/muffins with added fiber (and more than 30 percent said they "may" pay more in all of those categories); 12 percent said they would pay a premium for fiber-enriched products in hot breakfast cereals and bagels.

"In our consumer research, we've consistently found that consumers read labels for fiber content in an effort to add more fiber to their diets," says David Lewis, director of health and wellness at Tate & Lyle.

Among other products, Tate & Lyle markets Promitor, a corn-based soluble dietary fiber (www.promitorfiber.com).

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