As consumers and regulators alike continue their demand for an increase in the fiber content of food, bakery and snack manufacturers may expect to see changes ranging from sources to technology to processing to shape and size.
Cathy Peterson, a food science nutrition specialist at SunOpta, Edina, Minn., predicted the industry will see a broader range of fibers from different sources as well as significant progress in the technology used to modify the shape and particle size so it is easier to work with.
“SunOpta is looking at ways to make fiber smoother, longer or finer for easier incorporation into products,” Ms. Peterson said. “The company is also looking at how processing fiber can affect its water-holding properties. We are able to drill into the specifics, such as the level of water-holding, particle size and texture, that are needed for specific applications.”
Other fiber suppliers projected a proliferation of new cereal grains containing intrinsic fiber, driven by the push for clean labels.
“A lot of work is being done to improve the fiber content and functionality through conventional seed breeding techniques,” said Colleen Zammer, director of product marketing for Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass. “I think we’ll see more work at the seed genetics level and the creation of more naturally-occurring fibers that are intrinsically functional and healthful.”
Clean label was cited by Jennifer Stephens, marketing manager, Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, Colo., for the increasing popularity of grain-based fibers.
“Botanical sources such as rice, sorghum, millet, barley, buckwheat and quinoa are riding the ancient grain wave and being promoted not only for their protein and nutritional content but fiber as well,” she noted. “Clean label has created a need for natural cereal grains that are easy to use.”
Jenn White, food industry specialist, Brenntag Mid-South, St. Louis, agreed that exotic grains are becoming more mainstream but thought that the limited supply of these grains might make product launches unrealistic for major manufacturers.
“We may see some new items listing fiber from sources like buckwheat, amaranth or quinoa coming from smaller companies,” she predicted.
When it comes to corn fiber, Todd Giesfeldt, mill R.&D. senior manager, Didion Milling, Cambria, Wis., described this ingredient functioning as a fat mimetic, especially if suppliers can meet the technical challenge of grinding it to under 1 or 2 microns.
Mr. Giesfeldt also pointed out another area with potential: corn fiber gum.
“The process can also yield relatively pure cellulose, which could be more label-friendly than other sources of food-grade cellulose,” he observed.
Grain Millers’ cereal-based sweetener offers customers a unique way of cleaning up their labels.
“We have an enzymatically produced oat flour based product that can lower the level of added sucrose in a product,” said Rajen Mehta, Ph.D., senior director, specialty ingredients, Grain Millers, Eugene, Ore. “It is 40% the sweetness of added sugar, which means that ‘sugar’ can go lower in the ingredient statement.”As regulators and manufacturers work to fill the nutritional fiber gap, supplier offerings in this area should expand rapidly, making it easier for bakeries and snack food producers to help consumers get their added-fiber cake and eat it, too.