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Fibre has become one of the key nutritional factors that consumers look out for when shopping for food and drink with added health benefits – something which the Covid pandemic has put into sharp focus.
Naturally found in cereals, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables, fibre helps to reduce cholesterol, reduce the risk of diabetes and can help protect against weight gain, according to the British Nutrition Foundation. So important is fibre to consumers’ diets that the National Food Strategy set a target to increase fibre consumption by 50% by 2032. This is because in the UK, the British Nutrition Foundation says most people do not eat nearly enough of it.
With the fibre trend poised to kick off in the coming years, Speciality Food looks into what retailers need to know to cater to the growing demand.
Functional fibres in low and reduced sugar food and drink launches are on the rise. Globally, they increased from 11% in 2015 to 19% in 2020, according to research from Mintel. With 29% of Brits interested in fruit juices, juice drinks and smoothies with high fibre content, the market researcher said producers will be exploring formulations that combine fibres with sugar to reduce overall sugar content.
And as well as being linked to reduced sugar, fibre is also connected to gut health, which has been of particular concern among consumers in recent years. “Consumers are aware of the importance of fibres in maintaining gut health,” said Neha Srivastava, food and drink patent analyst at Mintel. “Brands can leverage this awareness by repositioning them as a multifunctional health ingredient that helps reduce sugar content in food and drink whilst improving gut health.”
With brands creating more and more fibre-rich food and drink, retailers will have a growing pool of products to consider for their shelves. And as research by IGD highlights, few consumers are aware of where to find fibre, so food and drink brands that make this inclusion clear will reap the rewards. In fact, IGD found that 87% of people notice health claims on packs, and 21% say the claims influence purchase.
This year saw the launch of organic flour brand Doves Farm’s speciality flour range, with multiple products of the range offering a source of fibre and protein. The brand’s Freee free-from range also launched fibre-focused gluten-free cereals. Elsewhere, Doughlicious launched a range of Snackable Cookie Dough products, which as well as being high in fibre are vegan and low in sugar, as they were designed to help curb sweet cravings.
Innovations in formulations are also pushing the boundaries of dietary fibre. Mondelēz International in collaboration with Washington University School of Medicine researchers developed snacks made with pea fibre, the commonly used fibre inulin and fibres from the pulp of oranges and barley bran, which changed the gut microbiome of those who ate them in ways that could improve health in the long term.
Created in order to support a healthy gut microbiome, the study found that by discovering which types of fibre are most effective, brands can create products that will be more effective in contributing to a healthier diet.
While these formulations may not be widespread yet, it shows the direction that food manufacturers could go in order to increase the fibre content in their products and improve health benefits for customers. By keeping a keen eye on the most innovative fibre products – and of course the tastiest, too – fine food retailers will be sure to provide the health kick that their customers desire.