There is a fibre gap in the UK national diet and more consumers are looking to fill it. According to research from ingredient supplier Tate & Lyle, nearly half of Brits want to increase their daily consumption of the nutrient.
But consumers feel there aren’t enough products labelled with fibre on the market, with over a third of UK respondents blaming this for their low consumption.
Nearly a quarter of UK consumers surveyed said they had eaten more fibre-rich products compared to the previous year – though this was still lower than the global average of 35%.
It’s an area that manufacturers need to promote better, Beth Nieman Hacker, global market research director at Tate & Lyle, tells Food Spark.
“The health impacts of this fibre gap in the national diet are manifold, with consumers missing out on a host of health benefits, such as help reducing cholesterol, lowering the risk of colorectal cancer, and improving blood glucose response,” she explains.
“Many manufacturers use fibre to replace the body or bulk previously provided by sugar. In fact, the food and beverage industry is using fibre more for its sugar replacement than enrichment. Given the growing consumer interest in fibre-enriched products, reducing sugar in products and enriching them with fibre is a winning formula for brands.”
There are particular categories where consumers are looking for more fibre.
Tate & Lyle’s research shows breakfast cereals are of particular interest to consumers, with almost half of the UK interested in purchasing fibre-full versions.
Other categories seeing demand for products with on-label fibre include soup (33%), crackers (33%), bars (29%) and cookies (29%).
“Some consumers have found high levels of dietary fibres to be a source of slight discomfort, mainly due to the gas produced during the fermentation of the fibre in the gut. However, this area has evolved significantly and today manufacturers can avoid this outcome by choosing fibres that are well tolerated by various population age groups,” adds Nieman Hacker.
The head of nutrition at Leatherhead Food Research has also previously highlighted fibre as a key health trend, advising manufacturers on how to bulk up fibre content in products, from alternative sources to new technologies.
The trend towards healthier products with recognisable ingredients has also seen manufacturers switch to clean-label starches, remarks Nieman Hacker.
“Most recently, we have seen increased demand for clean-label solutions in high-sugar recipes, such as bakery fillings, and in salad dressings where formulators have cold processes and require instant functionality to deliver texture,” she comments.
But categories that are associated with indulgence, such as sweet baked goods, have historically focused their innovation efforts on providing a more indulgent or extraordinary eating experience – as well as free-from equivalents – and have only recently begun making changes to improve the healthiness of their products, says Nieman Hacker.
“Being at this earlier stage in the process may present opportunities for quick wins. By understanding the nutrition composition behind every ingredient in their formulation, producers can understand how they contribute to the overall nutritional profile. Getting consumers to buy into any changes is crucial,” she adds.