The carrot is more effective than the stick: How to entice consumers to up their fiber intake

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Beneo's prebiotic fibers are made from chicory root. Pic: Beneo
Beneo's prebiotic fibers are made from chicory root. Pic: Beneo

Related tags: Beneo, Fibre, prebiotic fibre, Mintel, chicory, European food safety authority, Clean label

Research conducted on behalf of the Beneo-Institute found that Europeans still do not manage to consume the recommended daily intake of fiber, despite being aware that it is key for a healthy digestive system. BakeryandSnacks chats to Thomas Schmidt, marketing director at Beneo.

Why are European consumers eating less fiber than recommended?

Our research found that consumers in European countries are only eating approximately half of the recommended daily intake of 25g of fiber.

The reasons for this are manifold: It is challenging to achieve the recommended intake of fiber solely by consuming food groups that are the most fiber rich, such as vegetables, grains and some fruits. Also, fiber-enriched products tend to have a grainy or bland taste.

As such, we are working with an increasing number of producers to incorporate our Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose chicory root functional fibers into a variety of products. Both are easily integrated, whilst maintaining or even improving taste and texture.

What is the importance of a healthy microbiome?

A healthy microbiome positively influences the entire body from within, including physical health, weight management and mood.

Though there are many fibers available, only very few are proven to beneficially support the microbiota, in particular, prebiotic fibers. Their positive effects extend to other parts of the body and can influence hunger-satiety (energy intake), mood and much more.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in gut microbiome, with research from the HealthFocus International (global) Trend Study in 2018 – as well as Beneo’s consumer research on prebiotics – showing that one in two consumers is very or extremely interested in finding out more about the microbiome. Seven in 10 say that digestive health is very or extremely important to them.

This really highlights the increased consumer awareness of the importance of a healthy gut and presents significant opportunities for manufacturers to add prebiotic fiber during product development.

There is a wealth of research supporting the beneficial impact of the prebiotic chicory root fibers in promoting good bacteria in the gut and creating a more favorable environment in the large intestine.

These fibers are the preferred nutrients for beneficial gut bacteria and therefore encourage positive modulation of the microbiota composition to take place.

In addition, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) looked at the data in the context of our health claim submission on digestive health and a health claim was granted exclusively for Beneo as a result.

How can Beneo assist producers wanting to add fiber to their product?

Consumer interest in digestive health, the microbiome and wellbeing is already at a high level and continues to be constantly on the rise.

With chicory root fibers, inulin and oligofructose – the only proven plant-based prebiotics currently on the market – digestive wellbeing can be addressed in versatile product development and supported by strong human intervention studies.

The fibers are soluble and have a mild sweet taste, making them easy to incorporate in a variety of applications such as bakery, cereals, confectionery, dairy and beverages, without sacrificing on taste or texture.

Companies can encourage fiber intake among consumers by either making food categories that are known for their fiber content more appealing (for example, Kellogg’s Happy Inside breakfast cereal​); or by enriching food groups that aren’t known for being high in fiber (such as pasta, ready-to-drink coffee or confectionery).

How do these fit in with today’s trends of clean label and sustainability?

Overall, an increasing amount of research is available showing the extent of the demand for more clean label products. Consumers favor simplicity and are looking to food producers to deliver it.

This increased focus on health and wellbeing and demand for transparency is, in turn, putting pressure on manufacturers to deliver products that have a clean label as a basic requirement, in even the most challenging food products.

For example, Mintel research has shown that consumers worldwide are looking for transparency when purchasing food.

Beneo commissioned consumer research agency Insites to conduct research in five European countries (UK, Spain, Germany, France and Poland) on the perception of fiber in 2012/13. It also conducted consumer research on probiotics in the UK, Germany, Italy and Russia in 2017.

In fact, 73% of Spanish and 65% French consumers said they are more likely to trust a food product if packaging explains where the ingredients are sourced.

Meanwhile, a massive 89% of consumers in the UK have said that they think that fewer ingredients in a product the better.

We can help companies meet this demand. Our Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose are natural, non-GMO, clean label prebiotic fibers that are derived from chicory root via a gentle hot water extraction method, unlike some other fibers that are artificially or chemically made.

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