Fibers, Flours, Grains

Fiber Never Goes Out of Fashion

Food processors are reimagining sweet indulgences with novel fiber concepts.

By Jeanne Turner, Contributing Editor

Fiber might slip from the radar occasionally but always makes a comeback as consumers continue to refine their diets. According to LuAnn Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights, speaking at IFT 2019, although fiber is linked to satiety and weight management, now there is greater awareness of its key role in achieving a healthy gut microbiome.

Despite the fact that, according to Williams, 44% percent of U.S. consumers say they have increased fiber intake, the average person consumes just half the recommended daily amount of 15g per day. The American Heart Assn. eating plan for example, suggests a total dietary fiber intake of 25-30g.

“Consumers are becoming more interested in fiber, but they still don’t really understand it," says Chris Schmidt, marketing lead for food & beverages, DuPont Nutrition & Biosciences. "There is a serious knowledge gap around fiber types (soluble vs. insoluble), which foods contain fiber and how much fiber [a person] needs, such as recommended intake.

“Interest in fiber is definitely on the rise and we’re starting to see it appear in a lot of categories it never played in before," he continues. "High-protein/high-fiber snack bars really took off around the start of the decade. More recently we’ve seen heavier promotion of fiber’s prebiotic benefits and extensions into better-for-you versions of confectionery (Smart Sweets) and even carbonated soft drinks (Olipop).”

According to a recent DuPont consumer survey, over one-quarter of American snacking consumers are looking for high fiber in their snack choices. “There is an interesting generational dichotomy with high-fiber snacks appealing most strongly to the youngest consumers (<34) and the oldest consumers (65+)," Schmidt says. "Hispanic and African American consumers also strongly over-index in their interest in high-fiber snacks.”

DuPont offers food and beverage manufacturers a portfolio of fiber ingredients. One, a prebiotic polydextrose called Litesse, adds fiber while aiding with the development of sugar-free and reduced sugar products. Litesse is only partially metabolized by the body thereby contributing just 25% of the calories of sugar, for a low glycemic response. Available as a powder or liquid, this ingredient is a non-gel forming, soluble fiber with “particularly high tolerability and clinically-backed prebiotic benefits.”

Adding a prebiotic fiber to existing or new formulations is one step toward improving a product’s fiber content. But what if instead of adding a prebiotic fiber, you could alter a product’s natural sugar content and turn it into prebiotic fiber?

Better Juice, out of Ashdod, Israel, claims it can do that with fruit juice. The company developed a patent-pending enzymatic technology that uses a natural non-fermentative process to convert the monosaccharides and disaccharides (fructose, glucose and sucrose) within fruit juices into prebiotic fiber and other non-digestible sugars. The company says its process can reduce the sugar 30-80% in orange juice while contributing 2-3g of fiber per serving, all while maintaining excellent fruit flavor and without affecting solids or Brix.

In the U.S. a final product using this process could be labeled “juice” with the caveat that the product is “enzymatically treated.” In terms of maintaining clean label status, nothing artificial is added to the juice.

“An orange juice concentrate is still orange juice. Wine is a clean label product, so is beer," says Eran Bachinsky, company founder and CEO."We are using a biological process and there are lots of similar processes already in place in the food and beverage industry.”

He said the fiber content of the final product depends on the sugar content of the juice itself; whether the basic sugar is sucrose, glucose or fructose. “Grape juice doesn’t have sucrose at all,” says Bachinsky. “Orange juice, pineapple and apple have sucrose at a relatively high concentration in the juice.” It is the sucrose content that the process can convert into prebiotic fiber and non-digestible sugars.

At Health Ingredients Europe 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany, the company was awarded “Most Innovative Technology” in the Start-up Innovation Challenge. The company recently announced a partnership to set up a pilot plant with Citrosuco, one of the largest global producers of orange juice concentrate, located in Brazil.

At IFT 2019 earlier this year, Comet Bio, London, Ontario, won the innovation award for its novel concept sweeteners sourced by up-cycling crop leftovers such as wheat straw and cornstalks. Sweeterra, available in syrup form, cuts calories by up to 35%, lowers sugar, and supplies higher dietary fiber content than traditional corn syrup. In addition, the company says its raw material sourcing reduces greenhouse gases by over 60% compared to traditional corn syrup.

The company is pursuing GRAS status to label its ingredient “straw syrup.”

According to Loula Merkel, vice president of business development, “Our consumer research shows people appreciate understanding where their products come from. The notion we can actually use the straw leftover is actually very appealing to consumers.”

The company initially hoped to develop an economical source of dextrose for fermentation from these crop leftovers. Once achieving this, Comet realized the resulting purity level indicated it would be suitable for food applications.

In pie filling, taffy chews and cereal bars for example, the company says its 63DE performs as a functional equivalent to corn syrup in terms of taste, heat stability and binding. In pie crust, sugar cookies and white bread, the 95DE performed in a manner comparable to commercial corn-based 95DE. Sweeterra is recommended for use in confectionery products, gummies, fruit preparations, energy drinks, nutrition bars and baked goods.

The company also offers an Arabinoxylan Plant Fiber Extract, which is a fully soluble, powdered dietary fiber. “In a confectionery situation obviously, the inclusion levels would be higher and it could contribute 4-5g of fiber per serving,” says Merkel. “In a standard brownie it would contribute as much as 5g additional fiber per serving with no impact on taste or baking characteristics. This is a great way to improve the nutritional profile of traditional indulgence items,”

“The microbiome is a hot area and will grow over time,” she continues, “with front of pack claims very interesting for this category. Candies, gummies, chocolates -- all of these sectors so far seem to be quite interested in this product.”

The company has a partnership with a cooperative of farms in Ontario and a larger consortium of organic farmers “anxious to supply us,” says Merkel. “This is a raw material that is underutilized, so not only can it help create new products for food & beverage manufacturers, but also creates a new revenue source for the farmers."

She said the company is involved in discussions with food companies to investigate the potential in byproducts such as oat hulls or spent grains. “The raw material for our process is plentiful,” said Merkel. As is the market for fibers that can help reduce sugar content with natural, authentic ingredients and processes.