From Australia to America, Indonesia to Italy, consumers are seeking foods and beverages with fiber, according to the report “Fiber, grains and gluten — A global perspective” from HealthFocus International, St. Petersburg, Fla. People also are becoming more aware of two specific fiber sources: oat fiber and inulin.
The report, which contains data from 16 countries, found 44% of respondents said they are seeking high fiber foods. Eighty per cent want fiber as a source of nutrition in the products they buy, which trails only fruit at 90%. Fiber ranks ahead of protein at 79%, yogurt at 74%, fruit juices at 72%, whole grains at 71%, nuts at 68%, honey at 67%, omega-3 fatty acids at 63% and antioxidants at 63%. The paper said 20% of people globally want to see information about fiber on the front of food packages, which compared to 51% for calories, 40% for sugar, 36% for fat and 26% for saturated fat.
To prepare its report, HealthFocus International used data from a U.S. trend study it published in 2014 and an international trend study, also published in 2014. The 16 countries included were the United States, Canada, Brazil and Mexico in the Americas; France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom in Europe; and Australia, China, Japan, India, Indonesia and The Philippines in Asia Pacific.
The report showed awareness of beta-glucan (oat fiber) at 26% in 2014, which was up from 24% in 2012. Thirty-three per cent of people in 2014 were interested in beta-glucan (oat fiber).
“Awareness is low but growing for things like ancient grains and oat fiber,” the report said. “Interest also outweighs awareness. So while they may not really know about it, they want to.”
Two multinational companies have invested in oat beta-glucan.
DSM Nutritional Products in 2012 acquired the OatWell brand beta-glucan ingredient portfolio from Swedish Oat Fiber. OatWell products are used in foods, beverages and dietary supplements. They offer health benefits in the areas of cholesterol reduction, blood glucose control and gastrointestinal health, according to DSM.
Tate & Lyle, P.L.C., London, in 2013 acquired Biovelop, a Swedish manufacturer of oat beta-glucan under the PromOat brand name. PromOat has beta-glucan content of up to 35%. A soluble fiber, PromOat swells and hydrates in the stomach, and the beta-glucan is not digested, according to Tate & Lyle.
Oats contain about 10% total dietary fiber, with more than one third of the fiber being soluble, said William W. Liska, sales manager for Grain Millers, Inc., Eden Prairie, Minn.
“Certainly the soluble fiber in oats is best known for its heart health benefits (look for the heart on oatmeal and other oat-containing products),” said Sharon M. Herzog, director of research and development for Grain Millers. “The beta-glucan soluble fiber functions to lower cholesterol. The effects are significant. This can translate to as simple as eating one bowl of oatmeal (providing 2 out of the 3 grams of soluble fiber needed) along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.”
Grain Millers offers oat flakes, oat bran, oat flour, oat groats and oat fiber.
“With the exception of oat fiber, bran and de-branned flour, all milled oats are classified as whole grain,” Mr. Liska said. “While flakes are most commonly used, formulators must consider how the oats will be handled and processed. The desired attributes in the finished product ultimately drives the most suitable form of oat to be used.”
In the HealthFocus International report, inulin awareness was at 18% in 2014, which was up from 16% in 2012, and 22% of people said they were interested in inulin.
Inulin also may be used to reduce sugar. A new survey commissioned by Sensus, an inulin supplier, found more than 60% of European consumers monitor sugar intake and 25% search for low sugar food products. The survey also found 55% said the type of sweetener used in reduced-sugar products influences their buying choice and that Europeans prefer natural alternatives to many artificial sweeteners. The MSI-ACI European Consumer Perceptions Survey 2015 involved more than 2,500 adults in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom in June 2015.
Sensus, which has a U.S. office in Lawrenceville, N.J., manufactures Frutafit inulin and Frutalose oligofructose, which are used as sugar substitutes in such applications as dairy items, bread and bakery products, confectionery items, and beverages. Other inulin suppliers include Cargill, which offers Oliggo-Fiber branded ingredients, and Beneo, which offers Orafti inulin and oligofructose branded ingredients.
Ancient grains were another focus of the HealthFocus International report, although it did not go into detail about their fiber levels. Awareness of ancient grains was at 28% in 2014, up from 26% in 2012, and 35% of people in the study said they were interested in ancient grains.
The report said of quinoa, an ancient grain: “It’s relatively unknown with the majority saying it’s neither good nor bad, which indicates that they don’t really know much about it. Given that it’s relatively uncommon to the majority, it appears those that use, do so frequently. Other grains like barley get a much higher rating of ‘good.’”
Industry still is waiting to see how proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts Panel might affect fiber. The Food and Drug Administration announced the proposed rule in the March 3, 2014, issue of the Federal Register, more than two years ago. The F.D.A. proposed the Daily Value for fiber based on a caloric intake of 2,000 calories be increased to 28 grams per day from 25 grams per day, which would make it more difficult for products to carry a claim of “good source of fiber” or “excellent source of fiber.”