CHICAGO — Americans are increasingly interested in gut health, understanding that digestive health is linked to overall well-being. Fiber is part of the journey and is emerging as a star ingredient in new categories.

Fiber is expected to follow protein as the must-have nutrient in diets and better-for-you products, according to Stephanie Mattucci and Melanie Zanoza Bartelme, both associate directors at Mintel, who spoke recently at IFT FIRST: Annual Event & Expo, held July 10-13.

“Consumers perceive high fiber foods as healthy but not tasty,” Ms. Mattucci said.

And while consumers want to eat healthy, they are still looking for food that tastes good as well, Ms. Bartelme added, so products must communicate their tastefulness to overcome negative perceptions. 

Fiber claims are found in predictable categories, such as breakfast cereals and fruits and vegetables.

Companies interested in promoting foods rich in fiber should tap into health concerns by linking fiber to healthy aging, energy and microbiota health. Fiber claims should also be a natural fit, Ms. Mattucci and Ms. Bartelme said. For instance, consumers expect breakfast foods to be high in fiber, so this is a good category to pursue high fiber claims.

They also suggested that food manufacturers should find the right fiber ingredient for products. Connecting fibers with their plant origins will strengthen their appeal while synthetic fibers will be challenged to prove their benefits as natural trends persist.