Chicory root inulin
Studies have shown chicory root inulin improves laxation/bowel function, increases calcium absorption and reduces blood cholesterol levels.

KANSAS CITY— Two upcoming regulatory initiatives, one involving a fiber definition and the other Nutrition Facts Panel changes, may give food manufacturers more reason to incorporate chicory root inulin into products.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in the May 27 issue of the Federal Register presented a fiber definition that includes naturally occurring fibers and only fibers added to food that show a physiological health benefit. The F.D.A. asked for more information on why inulin and several other ingredients should qualify as fiber. These ingredients are in “limbo land,” said Julie Miller Jones, emeritus professor of nutrition at St. Catherine University, in an Oct. 10 presentation at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas.

Inulin companies Beneo, Cosucra Groupe Warcoing S.A. and Sensus B.V. submitted a citizen petition on Sept. 12 that asked the F.D.A. to include inulin-type fructans in a new dietary fiber definition. Cargill is the exclusive distributor for the Cosucra Groupe Warcoing portfolio of chicory root inulin ingredients in the United States. The petition said inulin-type fructans have a number of physiological health benefits, including improved laxation/bowel function, increased calcium absorption, reduced blood cholesterol levels and attenuated postprandial blood glucose levels.

The industry anticipates that in the coming months the F.D.A. will release additional guidance on the material they want to see that presents physiological health benefits, said Taylor Halstead, product manager for specialty carbohydrates for Cargill, Minneapolis.

“What we’ve done essentially — the chicory root inulin industry — is try to proactively give that guidance to the F.D.A. as quickly as possible to aid in their review process,” he said.

Industry believes the F.D.A. will take its next steps by the end of the year, said Alexander Schoch, senior manager of regulatory affairs for Beneo.

“With our citizen petition we have contributed significantly by providing published scientific evidence, supplemented by unpublished information on the physiological health benefits of inulin-type fructans, the majority coming from over 25 years of doing research with the Beneo chicory root fibers,” he said.

Chicory root inulin meets a fiber definition in Europe and in Canada as well as the Codex definition, said Carol Lowry, senior food scientist for Cargill. Several food and beverage companies already promote inulin from chicory root as fiber in the United States, including General Mills, Inc., Minneapolis, in its Fiber One bars.

“Most manufacturers are using it as a dietary fiber to make fiber claims on their products,” said Scott Turowski, technical manager for Sensus America Inc.

In regard to the Nutrition Facts Panel, food and beverage manufacturers with sales greater than $10 million will need to start listing the amount of added sugars in their products by July 26, 2018. Companies with sales below $10 million will have until July 26, 2019, to comply with the new rules.

Incorporating inulin may assist in reducing the amount of added sugars.

“Using highly soluble inulin or native inulin, sugar can be reduced by 20% to 30% in most applications without the need to add any high potency sweeteners,” said Andy Estal, technical manager, NAFTA, Beneo, Inc. “If more than a 20% to 30% reduction is sought, either natural or synthetic high potency sweeteners can be added to restore sweetness to the original level.”

Sugar reduction will vary on the type of inulin used. For example, the petition submitted to the F.D.A. refers to several kinds of inulin-type fructans: inulin with degrees of polymerization (D.P.) ranging from 3 to 60; long-chain inulin with a D.P. of 10 or more; oligofructose (also known as fructooligosaccharides or FOS) with a D.P. of 10 or less; and 
oligofructose-enriched inulin, which is a combination of long-chain and shorter-chain inulin.

“Different chain lengths certainly have different functional properties,” Mr. Turowski said. “Shorter chain lengths are going to be more similar to sugar in their functional properties whereas longer chains are going to have more of a texture benefit and more of a fat-replacement ability.”

Cargill next January plans to launch S30, a solubility-enhanced native inulin in powder form, Ms. Lowry said. It will be a more affordable alternative to short-chain fructooligosaccharides.

“It’s more appropriate for applications where there is not a lot of water — so baked goods, confectionery, ice cream, fruit preps,” she said.