Fiber's sweet side

by Jeff Gelski
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Snacks such as pecan pie tarts are one opportunity for fiber inclusion.

The complexity of some nutritional guidance may perplex plenty of Americans, but other messages may be simpler to understand. For example, people may grasp the idea that more fiber and less sugar in their diet may be a good thing.

Food companies may want to provide the dual product benefits of fiber in and sugar out. They should know that such ingredients as inulin and polydextrose may assist in reaching both goals.

The 2015 International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2015 Food and Health Survey gave insight into the number of Americans trying to add fiber and reduce sugar in their diets. When asked what they were trying to get a certain amount of or as much as possible, 55% said fiber, ranking only behind whole grains at 56%. When asked what they were trying to limit or avoid entirely, 55% said sugar, ranking first and ahead of added sugars (54%) and sodium/salt (53%).

Increasing consumption of snacks also may play into more fiber/less sugar formulation and marketing strategies. Chicago-based Mintel this year released a study that found 94% of Americans snack once a day with 50% snacking two to three times per day.

“Nearly all Americans snack, especially younger adult consumers who also are more likely to have increased their snacking frequency over the last year,” said Amanda Topper, a food analyst for Mintel. “Snacking may also be replacing standard daily meals, and this behavior is likely to continue. Americans claim a preference toward healthier snacks, specifically those with simple ingredients and low-calorie counts. However, they most often snack to satisfy a craving, highlighting the important role taste and flavor play on their snacking behavior. There still is opportunity for manufacturers to offer more conveniently packaged and healthy snacks, which consumers feel are missing from the market.”

The survey found 33% of Americans saying they are snacking on healthier foods this year. Millennials are big on snacking as 24% say they snack four or more times per day.

“Millennials are also more likely than older generations to indicate snacks with added nutrition and flavor variety are important to them,” Ms. Topper said. “As a result they may be drawn to products with high fiber, energizing claims or protein content to stay satiated, as well as bold flavors to help add variety to their frequent snacking occasions and eliminate boredom.”

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