Grain-based foods have a natural affinity for fiber, which may need to be added to meet consumer expectations.

Fiber remains a shortfall nutrient in the U.S. diet, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. To help Americans consume sufficient quantities for best health, formulators now enhance product formulations with supplemental dietary fiber food ingredients. By doing so, marketers hope to appeal to the growing demographic of consumers actively seeking health and wellness foods.

Sensible fortification

Grain-based foods should own this space. After all, many of them intrinsically contain fiber since it is a natural component of cereal grains, as well as seeds and nuts — common ingredients in everything from breads to muffins to snack chips. But still there are many baked goods that contain barely a gram of fiber per serving.

“Foods high in fiber can help consumers meet the recommended goal of 25 g fiber a day,” said Pam Stauffer, global marketing programs manager, Cargill, Minneapolis.

Amanda Wagner, food technologist, Fiberstar, River Falls, WI, said, “Many consumers are unaware of the low fiber content offered by refined grains, which make up a large part of the American diet and grocers’ shelves.” Even some whole grains skew low in fiber content.

“Consumers often assume all whole grain foods come with accompanying high levels of dietary fiber, but this is not the case,” said Kati Ledbetter, technical sales manager, ADM, Chicago. “Because of this inequality, many grains require additional ingredients to boost their fiber content.”

Bakers are wise to do so. According to results from the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation’s 2015 Food and Health Survey, whole grains top the list of what consumers are trying to get a certain amount of in their daily diet. This is followed by fiber.

“The study showed that 56% of consumers are trying to consume whole grains and 55% are trying to consume fiber,” said Courtney Kingery, director, global product management, health and wellness, Tate & Lyle, Hoffman Estates, IL. “A product that meets both of these demands could be a powerhouse on grocery store shelves.”

Content claims for fiber are the most valuable to consumers, according to Scott Turowski, technical sales manager, Sensus America Inc., Lawrenceville, NJ. “Making the information available on the front of the package makes products that contain fiber more attractive and helps them stand out on the shelf,” he observed.

In addition to declaring actual grams of fiber per serving, marketers can claim a product to be a “good” source of fiber, which indicates a serving contains at least 2.5 g fiber per serving, or that it’s an “excellent” source with at least 5 g fiber per serving. Supplemental dietary fiber ingredients can help bakers reach these levels. But with more than 50 different types of fiber ingredients available, there are a number of factors formulators must consider.

Understanding fiber ingredients

It was not too long ago that fiber’s only claim to fame was its role in laxation. As a result of advances in chemistry and physiology, new fiber forms have been discovered, along with many varied functionalities.

The Atlanta-based Calorie Control Council explained that dietary fibers — both those intrinsic in foods and isolated food ingredients — provide health benefits in one of three ways: bulking, viscosity and fermentation.

Bulking increases stool mass, which assists in reducing constipation and improving regularity. Viscosity thickens the intestinal tract lining. This action helps lower blood cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose levels. Fermentation stimulates the growth of good bacteria, also known as probiotics, in the large intestine, leading to a range of health benefits such as boosting immunity and reducing bloating. Some dietary fibers provide satiety, thereby assisting with weight management. Others have been shown to have a protective effect against certain cancers.

Although many dietary fibers possess more than one benefit, no one fiber produces them all. The only attribute all fibers have in common is that they go undigested in the small intestine of humans. This makes it difficult to define the term fiber as well as identify a single analytical test for quantifying fiber content.

According to IFIC, the definition of fiber in the diet has evolved with the recognition of dietary fiber as a nutrient with demonstrable health effects. Multiple definitions of fiber are in use around the world. In the States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remains unsettled about defining as well as declaring fiber content on the Nutrition Facts Panel. (See “Will FDA change fiber labeling rules?” on Page 84.)

“FDA’s proposed fiber definition has caused anxiety in the industry because part of the definition would require fiber providers to demonstrate that their product has a physiological effect that is beneficial to human health,” said David Whitmer, corporate director of quality, R&D and innovation, MGP Ingredients, Inc., Atchison, KS.

The good news is that credible fiber suppliers have long supported their ingredients with published evidence of beneficial effects. It’s a matter of bakers determining the most suitable fiber ingredient to meet their finished product objectives.

The selection process

There is a lot to know and evaluate. “We help manufacturers determine the best fiber option by walking through criteria we call ‘the five C’s,’ ” Ms. Kingery said. “These are consumer sentiment, digestive comfort, clean labels, health benefit claims and cost in use.

“For consumer sentiment, we look at sensory attributes such as taste, color and texture,” she continued. “Fibers with a clean taste, neutral color and smooth texture without grittiness will increase overall consumer acceptance.”

Digestive comfort is also crucial. And when it comes to clean label, a marketer must consider other ingredients in the formulation as well as the target consumer. For example, some highly functional and economical fiber ingredients, namely polydextrose, don’t make the cut on Whole Foods Market’s acceptable ingredient list. If the natural foods consumer is not the product’s target market, then ingredient choice becomes a non-issue.

“Polydextrose is a very versatile fiber because it can be used in everything from baked chips to snack clusters to bars, and it reduces sugar, increases fiber and cuts calories,” said Cathy Dorko, product manager, active nutrition, DuPont Nutrition & Health, New Century, KS. “It also has no negative effects on flavor or texture.”

Most supplemental dietary fibers enable marketers to make various health-benefit or structure-function claims. It’s important to identify the desired label claims up front and ensure that they are supported with clinical data.

“Clinical evidence shows that foods containing at least 6.25 g polydextrose per serving could potentially support a satiety claim,” Ms. Dorko added. “And polydextrose is low glycemic, so it won’t impact blood glucose levels, making it suitable in products for diabetics.”

In numerous clinical trials, Ingredion Inc., Westchester, IL, has shown its high-amylose resistant starch to have beneficial metabolic effects including lowering blood glucose concentrations and improving insulin sensitivity. The company’s ingredient is made from a proprietary high-amylose corn hybrid and contains approximately 40% digestible (glycemic) starch and 60% resistant starch, which is insoluble fiber that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine.

The final “C” to consider is cost in use, which becomes a factor in relation to process stability, according to Ms. Kingery. “If a manufacturer chooses a fiber ingredient with exceptional stability, he won’t have to overcompensate for fiber loss. This may result in a more attractive cost in use,” she said.

Orchestrating the change

Other considerations include the impact on manufacturing. For example, does the formulation require any modifications? Is the chosen fiber process tolerant? Will the finished product still be consumer acceptable?

“To determine the best fiber fortification practices, bakers need to think in terms of why they are fortifying,” said Neelesh Varde, PhD, senior product manager, Roquette America, Geneva, IL. “Is it for nutritional reasons, for specific claims or for functional reasons?

“Insoluble fibers work well in adding functionality and versatility to baked goods, but their use may be limited in terms of making a fiber content claim,” he continued. “On the other hand, low-viscosity soluble fibers can be added at high enough levels to make content and structure-function claims without making a tremendous impact on the formulation or finished product.

“Our soluble corn fiber and soluble wheat fiber are 85% fiber and offer potential for making claims on digestive health, satiety and weight management,” Dr. Varde said. “These low-viscosity soluble fibers are very easy to work with since they don’t interact with other ingredients or require any changes in manufacturing.”

Another ingredient the company offers is insoluble pea fiber. “This ingredient is 50% fiber and contains 35% high-amylose pea starch, which gives it some interesting texturizing properties for baked applications,” Dr. Varde said. “We’ve successfully used the pea fiber in gluten-free and traditional bakery at usage levels ranging from 2 to 5%.”

Recently, International Fiber Corp., North Tonawanda, NY, joined forces with Fibred of Maryland, Cumberland, MD, to offer the baking industry a unique soy hull fiber for high-fiber bread applications. “It is especially useful in high-fiber white bread where color is important,” said Jit Ang, executive vice-president of R&D at International Fiber.

“Due to its very-high fiber content, this soy fiber is essentially zero in calories and provides the same physiological functions as all other insoluble fibers,” Mr. Ang said. “In the development of this fiber, bread trials containing as much as 20% soy fiber in a sponge-and-dough formula have been successfully run. Sensory panel evaluations judged these breads not only as acceptable but scored the high-fiber breads in the same category as controls with no fiber addition.”

Balancing appeal, nutrition

Adding fiber while maintaining the desired functional and sensory properties of food can be challenging for formulators, Ms. Ledbetter agreed. “Soluble dietary fiber ingredients can solve these challenges with their ease of use and versatility in food formulations,” she said. “They are suited for virtually all applications and are ideal for adding fiber content to whole grain products while not contributing to the challenging flavor or textural qualities sometimes associated with whole grains.

“Our liquid soluble dietary fiber is perfect for bakery and snack applications,” she continued. “It can be used to replace corn syrup in most applications while requiring minimal formulation and process adjustments.” It also adds crispiness and extends shelf life for low-moisture foods.

Tate & Lyle’s beta-glucan ingredient is a natural fiber from oats with superior solubility and clean taste and texture, according to Ms. Kingery. “It is easy to incorporate in bakery products and can even improve freshness perception due to improved moisture management in these products,” she said. The ingredient has a beta-glucan content as high as 35%, which makes it possible to achieve daily dosages required for specific health benefit claims.

Some fiber ingredients positively impact product formulations. For example, in some baked goods, certain fibers can assist sugar reduction, a dietary effort pursued by a growing number of consumers. According to the latest IFIC survey, 54% of consumers are trying to limit or avoid added sugars in their diets.

For example, Sensus has been working on increasing the functionality of chicory root fiber. “Our latest product is partly designed as a replacement for granular sugar in dry blend products,” Mr. Turowski said. “It is more than half as sweet as sugar and provides many of the same functional characteristics. It works well to reduce sugar and increase fiber in products such as cake and muffin mixes. As a direct substitute, it is possible to reduce sugar by more than 30% in these applications.”

Prebiotic bonus

Some fiber ingredients positively impact product formulations by their ability to function as a prebiotic, which basically means they fuel the growth of the large intestine’s favorite tenant: the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. These living microorganisms encourage overall wellness, with some strains providing specific benefits.

“In all types of baked goods, our patented resistant wheat starch can replace some flour in the formula, effortlessly boosting the product’s fiber content,” Mr. Whitmer said. “Recent studies showed that because this resistant starch is basically indigestible, it functions as a prebiotic fiber. It also has been shown to aid in digestive health, assist in weight management and the management of blood glucose levels, as well as help lower cholesterol.”

Jon Peters, president, Beneo Inc., Morris Plains, NJ, said, “Our prebiotic fibers inulin and oligofructose are obtained from chicory and can be easily used in all types of baked goods. Extensive evidence has shown that our prebiotic fibers improve the balance of the intestinal flora by stimulating beneficial bifidobacteria growth, an important element of good digestive health. A healthy gut environment in turn is the most important source for overall well-being.

“Further, we offer prebiotic fibers that have been proven to support weight management and help the body absorb more calcium for stronger bones,” Mr. Peters said. “Their mildly sweet taste and creamy texture even allow replacing part of the sugar or fat content, thus creating a healthier food without any major changes in the production processes.”

Ms. Stauffer described inulin as the “invisible fiber” that enhances the nutritional profile of grain-based baked foods, in particular, the growing snack category. “Recently, we created pretzels enriched with both fiber and protein,” she said.

A standing ovation

While providing health benefits, some fiber ingredients appeal to bakers more for their performance. Some of those functions include fat and sugar reduction, while others are more behind the scenes, benefitting the baker and retailer more than the consumer.

For example, citrus fiber provides various hydrocolloidal properties. “These hydrocolloidal benefits include moisture retention, egg replacement, fat replacement and quality throughout shelf life because it helps resist retrogradation or staling over time,” Ms. Wagner said. “Citrus fiber cannot be used alone to make fiber claims because the fiber’s usage levels typically range between 0.25% and 0.75% in most bakery applications. However, it can be used with other fibers to achieve a content claim.”

Florida Food Products Inc., Eustis, FL, markets a citrus-derived gelling fiber intended for egg replacement and texture development in baked goods. “It forms thermally stable and irreversible gels, just like eggs,” said Edgar Anders, the company’s executive vice-president. “This fiber ingredient can replace as much as 100% of egg content in baked goods, while developing structure, retaining moisture, providing emulsification and extending shelf life. In certain applications, it can shorten baking times, and it assists with gluten?free formulations.”

Powdered cellulose, sugar cane fiber, bamboo fiber and wheat fiber continue to hold their ground as traditional fiber sources in the baking industry, according to Mr. Ang. “These fibers come in a finer particle size for fortification purposes, as well as a longer fiber format for product quality enhancements such as improving volume, texture and moisture binding,” he explained.

As more health benefits and functionalities of fiber ingredients are identified, bakers will be able to get more fiber into their products, thereby helping Americans increase their daily intake of this nutrient.