American diet lacks fiber

by Erica Shaffer
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CHICAGO — U.S. consumers aren’t getting enough fiber in their diets and may not be receptive to health claims about fiber enhanced products, according to recent research from Mintel International.

In a recent survey, one in three respondents said they considered their diets to be healthy, but only one in five said they actively look for and buy products with added health claims. According to Mintel, these results reveal that only a minority of consumers would be interested in fiber enhanced products with digestive claims.

The Mintel study found that 30% of respondents said they make it a point to eat fiber-rich foods, however other studies show that most Americans are failing to get the recommended daily fiber intake. According to Mintel, this may explain the 27% of respondents who associate food with added fiber with an unpleasant taste.

“Many people have negative perception about the taste of fiber,” said Molly Heyl-Rushmer, senior health and wellness analyst at Mintel. “The taste deters them from eating a fiber-added product that has numerous health benefits.”

According to Mintel data, 22% of consumers don’t know enough about fiber to understand its importance to their health, and 37% believe supplements and food with added fiber are necessary because they don’t believe they can get enough fiber from regular foods. These findings are troubling given the numerous studies that have linked lack of fiber to various cancers, heart disease and diabetes.

“Consumers are more likely to report limiting sugar, fat, sodium and calorie intake than they are to eat naturally fiber-rich foods,” Ms. Heyl-Rushmer said. “Adults don’t fully understand the link between fiber and their health.”

The study also found that:

• Twenty-five per cent of respondents think fiber is only necessary for those suffering from irregularity or other digestive problems;
• Men are more likely than women to hold that belief; and
• Thirty per cent of men, compared to 23% of women, also believe supplements are just as effective as fiber-enriched foods.

“The way men view fiber is a considerable obstacle for marketers to overcome,” Ms. Heyl-Rushmer said. Using “macho” spokesmen in commercial advertising to poke fun at these beliefs and convince men they’re incorrect could be a successful marketing tool, she said.

To further dispel negative impressions, Ms. Heyl-Rushmer also recommended implementing money-back guaranteed and educational initiatives as well as informing consumers about the importance of fiber in their diet.

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