Drawing attention to fiber in different ways

by Jeff Gelski
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More consumers are eating inulin and resistant starch even though they may not know it. Both ingredients are appearing in well-known products, such as inulin in Fiber One brand products from General Mills, Inc., and resistant starch in Sara Lee brand bread.

"Consumers are not looking for a specific name," said Harvey Chimoff, director of marketing, Americas, for Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. People want wording on a label that is consumer-friendly, easy to understand and connotes fiber, he said.

"Resistant starch per se is not something that consumers are that knowledgeable about," he said.

Food companies are promoting fiber content in their products because of inclusions of inulin and resistant starch. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has never officially recognized inulinor resistant starch as forms of fiber, food companies considering the two ingredients as fiber apparently has caused no regulatory problems.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans probably will offer general guidelines on fiber, said Dr. Sue Potter, Ph.D., vice-president of Global Health and Nutrition Sciences for Tate & Lyle. Classifying and promoting ingredients for fiber content may vary by country, she said. Chain lengths of chemical structures and physiology benefits may come into play.

"In general, dietary fiber is dietary fiber," Dr. Potter said. "You get into specific disagreement maybe on the degree of polymerization."

According to the International Food Information Council, "Today, multiple definitions of fiber are in use around the world. The definitions vary based on the origin of fiber components, the analytical methods used to identify and quantify fiber, and whether beneficial health effects in the body are part of the definition."

Health Canada, the Institute of Medicine and AACC International all have recognized inulin as fiber in recent years. Health Canada specifically recognizes standard inulin from the chicory root for fiber claim purposes, said Joe O’Neill, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for Beneo-Orafti, Inc., Morris Plains, N.J. According to the IFIC, two common prebiotics are inulin and oligofructose, or fructooligosaccharides.

"The majority of worldwide regulatory agencies have approved inulin and oligofructose as dietary fiber," he said.

Fiber from chicory root

Food and beverage companies are finding synonyms for inulin and oligofructose when putting them on ingredient lists, Mr. O’Neill said. For example, describing inulin from chicory root as "chicory root fiber" or "chicory root extract" on the ingredient list highlights the product’s natural image, he said.

He added consumers also may confuse inulin with insulin. Some companies list inulin followed by natural dietary fiber in brackets to further describe it, he said.

Minneapolis-based General Mills takes several approaches in its Fiber One brand. The ingredient list for Fiber One muffins goes with "inulin (natural chicory fiber)." Fiber One bars, offering 35% of the daily value of fiber, has "chicory root extract" as the first item on its ingredient list. Yoplait Fiber One yogurt’s ingredient list goes with "chicory root extract (inulin)."

Through its Yoplait brand, General Mills accounted for nearly 40% of the functional foods market for yogurt sales in 2007, according to "Functional Foods — U.S. — May 2008," an executive summary from Mintel International, Chicago. General Mills unveiled Yoplait Fiber One Yogurt in January 2008.

Yogurt statistics from The Nielsen Co., New York, revealed U.S. sales of refrigerated yogurt promoted for its fiber content reached $75,161,874 for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 29, 2008. In comparison, Nielsen statistics show U.S. sales of fresh bread promoted for its fiber content reached $829,091,554 for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 9, 2008, more than a 5% increase from the previous 52 weeks. The statistics covered U.S. food, drug and mass merchandisers, excluding Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Bentonville, Ark.

Mr. O’Neill said he believes despite the current economic problems people will buy value-added snacks featuring inulin because people are eating at home more and the healthy snacking trend continues to rise.

Orafti inulin and oligofructose ingredients are multifunctional, giving both technological and nutritional benefits to products, Mr. O’Neill said. The ingredients have found uses in dairy products. They are suitable for use in fruit preparations in yogurts and in cultured, fluid and frozen dairy applications where they may replace sugar or fat.

Inulin also has helped stem a decline in traditional cottage cheese sales by highlighting prebiotic fiber and good digestive health benefits, Mr. O’Neill said. He pointed to the market success of LiveActive cottage cheese from Kraft Foods Inc., Northfield, Ill., and recent launches by Friendship Dairies, Jericho, N.Y.

When choosing Beneo-Orafti as an inulin supplier, food or beverage companies also may use a Beneo-Orafti logo through an optional program, Mr. O’Neill said. The logo validates and confirms the correct form of inulin has been used at the correct usage level.

Sensus America, Inc., Monmouth Junction, N.J., offers Frutafit inulin and Frutalose oligofructose as prebiotic soluble dietary fibers with texturizing properties. Frutafit comprises a range of powdered inulin products. Frutalose is the brand name for partially hydrolyzed inulin: oligofructose.

Recognizing resistant starch

Like inulin and oligofructose/fructooligosaccharides, resistant starch is recognized as dietary fiber by some groups. Health Canada recognizes some resistant starch as dietary fiber. The Institute of Medicine lists naturally occurring resistant starch as dietary fiber.

Resistant starch gained recognition on its own recently. Prevention magazine listed resistant starch as one of the top medical breakthroughs of 2008.

"A kind of dietary fiber known as ‘resistant starch’ is emerging as a new weight loss powerhouse," the magazine said. It also mentioned resistant starch may stabilize blood sugar levels and lower diabetes risks.

"When Prevention and MSN call natural resistant starch a medical breakthrough, people will look for it in the foods they buy," said Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager, nutrition, at National Starch Food Innovation. Bridgewater, N.J.

National Starch Food Innovation offers Hi-maize natural resistant starch. Tate & Lyle launched the Promitor brand of resistant starch and soluble fiber in 2007. When commenting on second-quarter financial results Feb. 10, executives of MGP Ingredients, Inc., Atchison, Kas., said the company will continue to emphasize value-added ingredients, including Fibersym RW and FiberRite RW resistant starches.

Mr. Chimoff of Tate & Lyle said when using fiber-rich ingredients in foods and beverages, manufacturers should highlight one of two things: either how much fiber is in the product or what benefit the product addresses, such as digestive health, weight management or immunity.

While government groups and health organizations may have a different view on the definition of fiber, Mr. Chimoff said everybody seems in agreement on one issue — fiber is a healthy ingredient.

"We’re really pleased that in general those who are guiding the consumers — the F.D.A., the food pyramid and registered dietitians — those folks are talking about fiber and the benefits of fiber," Mr. Chimoff said.

Research shows reasons to add fiber to children’s products

Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. in recent months has released market research on fiber in the United States and Mexico. In both countries, parents expressed a desire to add fiber to their children’s diets:

U.S. findings

• Nearly 70% of parents said they believe fiber is an important component to a child’s diet.

• Six out of 10 parents said fiber is useful to help maintain or control children’s health.

• Thirty-five per cent of parents said they believe the benefit of consuming food or drink products with fiber helps their children with digestion.

Mexican findings

• Forty-three per cent of parents report actively thinking of including dietary fiber in their children’s diet.

• Eighty-two per cent of parents said they agree dietary fiber is an important component of their children’s diets.

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