Mother Nature’s menu generally serves dietary fiber as a mixture of soluble and insoluble forms. Although the two differ in their physiological effects, each benefits health and wellness. So it’s only natural that a product developer would apply both soluble and insoluble forms when supplementing a formula’s fiber content.
“We initially created Equacia to balance soluble and insoluble fiber,” said Teresa Yazbek Pereira, vice-president and sales director, Nexira, Somerville, NJ. She explained how the company developed a proprietary process to combine soluble acacia gum fiber and insoluble gluten-free wheat fiber. In effect, a matrix of soluble fiber uniformly encapsulates and integrates the insoluble fiber. The proprietary co-drying process involves just water and energy, no chemical modification. It yields a natural product composed of 90% fiber on a dry weight basis and classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).
But Equacia does much more than add fiber to foods. Nexira describes it as a nutritional texturizer. The co-processed fibers produce different results than the two fibers used separately. Equacia mimics the texture of fat in baked foods, and because it replaces eggs, it is suitable for vegan and allergen-free products.
“Acacia gum, also called gum Arabic, is one of the oldest hydrocolloids around,” Ms. Yazbek Pereira said. “It has been recognized as dietary fiber for the past 20 years.”
Equacia represents the next chapter in the company’s work with acacia gum and builds on its Fibregum platform. Fibregum, based on 100% acacia gum, contains more than 90% soluble dietary fiber. It has high solubility but does not add viscosity, making it easy to incorporate into baked foods, cereal bars and other food and beverage applications. Acacia gum enhances shelf life and can in certain applications replace guar gum, now in short supply and expensive because of competitive demand from the oil and gas sector.
Fibregum’s properties as a fiber encompass both product and health benefits. In snacks, it improves crunchiness; in ready-to-eat cereals, it lengthens bowl life; in bars, it aids structure. For foods in general, it improves freeze/thaw stability and microwaveability and lowers carb count as well. Fibregum has a caloric value of 1.7 Cal per g and is available in a certified organic form, Fibregum Bio.
Taking such functionality to the next level, Nexira applied a proprietary co-processing method to develop Equacia, made of acacia gum and gluten-free wheat fiber. In the body, soluble acacia gum fiber acts as a gentle fiber, clinically proven to be a prebiotic that also helps regulate the rate of intestinal digestion, but without laxative action or negative side effects such as bloating that have been commonly linked to short-chain soluble fibers. Insoluble wheat fiber increases the speed of transit through the digestive system and, thus, improves regularity.
Equacia can be added to formulations with no real changes in the process. Soluble in cold water, the granulated, free-flowing, dust-free powder does not require any heating or shearing for activation and develops its smooth texture immediately after dissolving in water. It retains its functional properties across a wide pH range and a broad spectrum of temperatures and processing conditions.
For example, Equacia mixed at 1 to 2% with 4% water mimics the texturizing properties of fat so well that the fat content of cookies and muffins can be cut in half. Ms. Yazbek Pereira noted that the only formulation change required for this reduction is a small increase in water. If used as a stabilizer, just 1 to 4% Equacia is needed. (All percentages are given in bakers percent.)
The fiber blend also fits the needs of clean-label products, according to Ms. Yazbek Pereira. “Equacia carries a good reputation as an all-natural, sustainably sourced, GMO-free vegetable product,” she observed. “Another high-demand application is in gluten-free products, where Equacia provides texture benefits where grains other than wheat are used.”
Bakery applications run the gamut from bread and cakes to tortillas, pizzas and buns. On packaging, Equacia is labeled as “acacia gum (soluble fiber) and wheat fiber (insoluble fiber).” Fibregum is declared simply as “acacia gum,” “acacia” or even “acacia fiber (soluble fiber).”
“In September 2011, Health Canada approved Fibregum, made from acacia, to carry the ‘natural fiber’ designation,” Ms. Yazbek Pereira reported. “This applies specifically to Fibregum, not acacia gum in general.”www.nexira.com