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Consumers Adding More Fiber to Food and Beverage Diets

March 18, 2009
Inulin, oligofructose and other forms are lowering cholesterol, slowing glucose absorption and adding satiety to an increasing list of foods, and even beverages.

Consumers realize fiber is needed every day and in larger amounts than they’ve been consuming. A 2008 survey by the International Food Information Council reported 77 percent of people are actively trying to consume additional fiber.

Packaged foods and beverages touting fiber showed double-digit growth in each of the past five years and netted $3.5 billion in 2008, a 15.5 percent increase over 2007 (according to ACNielsen, for the 52 weeks ending July 12, 2008). Datamonitor’s Product Launch Analytics reported 6.3 percent of new food products claimed “high in fiber” in 2008. 

Weight Watchers adds inulin to its cream cheese spread to enhance fiber and prebiotic claims and to help reduce fat.

When selecting fiber, two factors matter: processing and physiological functionalities. Chemistry offers some fairly ordered guidelines to gauge these functionalities.

Sweetness and solubility generally decrease as the degree of polymerization increases. Insoluble fibers help with intestinal regulation; soluble fibers help lower cholesterol levels and the absorption of intestinal glucose. Physico-chemical properties – water holding capacity, swelling capacity, rheological and fat binding properties and susceptibility to bacterial degradation or fermentation – further define fiber’s physiological functions.

The viscosity of soluble fibers helps lower cholesterol and slows the rate of glucose absorption and blood glucose concentrations. This explains increased satiety from foods supplemented with inulin and oligofructose. 

Fiber even is finding its way into beverages. Kraft adds inulin “for digestive health” in mix-in packets co-branded with its Crystal Light and newer LiveActive brands.

As examples, LightFull Foods, Mill Valley, Calif., uses 6g of fiber in LightFull Satiety Smoothie to help curb hunger while delivering a mere 70-90 calories. Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., puts fiber right there in the name of the South Beach Living line of Fiber Fit cookies and Fiber Fit granola bars. Even Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts are on-trend with new toaster pastries that feature 20 percent of the daily value of fiber, thanks in large part to the 16g of whole grains per serving.

Inulin and oligofructose are two fibers in the limelight. In addition to great functional properties, they are beginning to be recognized by consumers – despite their complex names.

Kraft seems to like inulin. It helps enhance satiety in Planter’s Nut-rition Digestive Health Mix line. And Kraft’s On The Go Hunger Satisfaction Drink Mix relies on 5g of readily soluble inulin to help satisfy hunger and also to mask flavors and the lingering bitterness of protein and high potency sweeteners.

A Weight Watchers cream cheese spread includes inulin to reduce fat and enhance fiber and prebiotic claims.

“Natural” is another powerful word. The good news is “Inulin and oligofructose are a class of fibers considered natural, and consumers associate natural with wellbeing,” says Paige Pistone, director of marketing at Friendship Dairies (www.friendshipdairies.com), Jericho, N.Y. Friendship adds Orafti Synergy, an oligofructose-enriched inulin, at 3g per serving to its All Natural Digestive Health Cottage Cheese. The ingredient helps naturally boost fiber, and it also acts as a prebiotic to help consumers’ digestive health.

Highly soluble, short-chain inulin helped Dannon’s Activia Lowfat Yogurt line add a “with fiber” tag without recrystallization issues.

“The low water absorption capacity of native inulin and long-chain inulins allows for high levels of incorporation without producing sticky dough – an issue common with high-fiber applications,” says Joe O’Neill, executive vice president of Orafti (www.orafti.com), Morris Plains, N.J.

“Today’s functional fibers have to be invisible and augment functionality without impacting appearance negatively,” according to Trina O’Brien, marketing manager for GTC Nutrition, (www.gtcnurtition.com), Golden, Colo. She points our her company’s BioAgave, an agave-derived inulin in liquid form, and small particle-sized NutraFlora and Purimune do not produce grittiness in yogurts (they’re used in Julie’s Yogurt) as powdered fibers do.

Tate & Lyle’s Promitor brand of resistant starch “was specifically designed to withstand the very high melting temperature and high-sheer environments of extruded products,” says David Lewis, a business manager at Tate & Lyle (www.promitorfiber.com), Decatur, Ill.

Fibersol, co-marketed by ADM and Matsutani America Inc., both in Decatur Ill., “is even showing up in beers,” says Yuma Tani, Matsutani America’s vice president.

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