Why it has never been a better time to innovate with fibre

Consumers are actively looking for fibre claims on pack as the World Health Organisation promotes greater consumption of the nutrient.

30 January 2019
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image credit: Getty Images

It’s not a magic pill, but researchers have found something simple that can cut people’s chance of heart disease and early death. Simply, it’s to eat more fibre. A study commissioned by the World Health Organisation found we should be eating at least 25g to 29g of fibre a day, with indications that over 30g is even better.

The research showed that coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer are reduced by 16-24% among those who feast on the most fibre. On average, those who eat high-fibre diets also experience 13 fewer deaths and six fewer cases of coronary heart disease per 1,000 people than those who do not. Plus, fibre is essential for the normal functioning of the gut.

The problem? Brits aren’t getting nearly enough of it. Results from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey revealed that the average Brit is consuming only 18g of fibre a day – half the recommended intake.

Consumers appear to be aware of the issue – searches on Google for high-fibre foods rose by 47% last year – but feel there aren’t enough products labelled with fibre claims on the market, with over a third of UK respondents in a Tate & Lyle survey blaming this for their low consumption.

So where can product developers look to bulk up their nutritional offering?

Fibre in unexpected places

To make a ‘high in fibre’ claim, products need to contain either a minimum of 6g of fibre per 100g or at least 3g of fibre per 100kcal. For a ‘source of fibre’ label, the item must deliver 3g of fibre per 100g or at least 1.5g of fibre per 100kcal.

Mintel found nearly 6% of NPD in 2017 featured a claim of high or added fibre, up from just 2.5% five years ago.

Recently, dairy has been a popular category to target for fibre fortification. Dutch start-up Koupe has created a reduced-sugar ice cream with added fibre that it claims delivers more fibre than a serving of broccoli. Incorporating a prebiotic fibre called polydextrose to its ice cream has helped it supply around 5g of fibre per 100g, in flavours like salted caramel, banana, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry.

Founder Jaco Pieper said the fibre had the added benefit of replacing high-calorie ingredients, such as fat and sugar, and claims polydextrose can help lower blood sugar levels and increase probiotic activity.

“It is believed that a prebiotic selectively increases the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, such as lactic acid bacteria and/or bifidobacteria,” he said.

Being able to make multiple health claims also helps to set the product apart, according to Pieper, who is currently in discussions with retailers to launch the product in the UK.

Arla has also signalled it is accelerating innovation on new fibre ranges. Its current yoghurts don’t have the taste or texture associated with fibre, but still contain 4.7g per 150g serving through the use of ingredient chicory inulin. Israeli start-up Yofix Probiotics has debuted a plant-based yoghurt with probiotic cultures and prebiotic fibres, made with oats, sunflower and sesame seeds, and coconut.

Then there’s Dairy Crest, which released a prebiotic shot that is being marketed as a high-fibre digestive supplement. Sold under the brand Promovita,it contains 2.6g of fibre per serving.

“Promovita is a fast, convenient way to help feed good gut bacteria and give us more of the dietary fibre we need. It comes in handy liquid sachets that can be taken anywhere, at any point in the day, to easily fit consumers’ daily routine, no matter how hectic,”said Dairy Crest marketing controller Neil Stewart.

Looking to ingredients

Bakery is a no-brainer when it comes to fibre. In fact, the Flour Advisory Board has organised a campaign to promote the nutrient in bread products next month, dubbing the initiative Fibre February.

Tesco has recently boosted the fibre in its own-label baked range, with pies, pasties, sausage rolls, garlic bread and chilled breads targeted. Careful attention has been paid towards retaining the original taste, texture and flavour while bolstering the health benefits, according to food developer Angela Hughes.

The retailer’s chilled ciabatta slices now contain 85% more fibre, upping content from 1.4g to 2.7g per 100g, while its chicken and mushroom pie has chocked up a 55% increase (1.1g to 1.7 per 100g).

Tesco plans to look at other product lines as well, including pizzas, as well as adding more fruit and vegetables to recipes.

Snacking also offers opportunities. General Mills, for example, has found success with its Fibre One range of 90-calorie bars, which were added in August and became the fifth fastest-growing grocery product under £50m of 2018.

But it’s not just categories that should be considered. Seeds are a good source of fibre and have been tipped by McCormick as a top trend this year. European group Délifrance already offers a range of high-fibre breads made with wheat bran and a blend of six seeds, and the company is looking at more products with flax, quinoa and spelt.

Combining a high-fibre claim with alternative protein ingredients like beans, nuts and seeds could also help increase the appeal by linking to plant-based proteins.

So Sparkie, how’s your fibre intake?


Sparkie says:

Fibre features among this year’s trends under gut health. From my point of view, fibre is currently a valuable addition to any food that is suitable for it. Care must be taken not to overdo it as there is a very definite hard limit on how much you should add before it begins to become detrimental. The difficulty lies in that the limit varies for every product type. Snacks designed to be eaten more than once a day might want to include less than a full meal, for example.

If your product does contain a reasonable dose of fibre though, now is the time to talk about it. The days of mocking granny with her prunes are definitely a thing of the past.

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