IFT 2016 In Review

Fiber rises on ability to cut sugar & calories while preserving taste, satiety and clean label

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While fiber hasn’t quite reached the same superstar status as protein, consumer interest in the ingredient is rising rapidly as they look for ways to manage their weight while still enjoying food and beverages with high quality taste and familiar mouthfeel.

“We like to enjoy the food that we eat and drink – so keeping indulgency or crunchiness is critical,” but so too is weight management considering that from 1980 to today the obesity rate globally has doubled, said Luis Fernandez, senior vice president of global applications and EMEA specialty food ingredients for Tate & Lyle.

He also noted the rise in obesity is directly linked to an increasing consumer concern about diabetes and maintaining a low blood glucose level as well as a healthy gut for overall support.

Given these conflicting priorities, some manufacturers are struggling to find ingredients that can cut calories and sugar, support blood glucose levels, aid in digestion and gut health and still maintain the taste, texture and level of satiety that most consumers expect from their food today. Also, the demand for “clean labels” means the ingredients that solve these problems need to be recognizable and multifunctional in order to keep ingredient decks short and understandable, Fernandez noted.

But, he added, one ingredient that checks many of these boxes is fiber, which is a multipurpose addition to formulators’ toolboxes.

Tate & Lyle showcased at IFT several fibers and their nutritional benefits in diverse applications. For example, expo attendees sampled a summery mango gazpacho enriched with Promitor Soluble Fiber, which contributes a clean taste and texture and is easily digested.

The company’s portfolio also includes STA-LITE Polydextrose, which adds fiber without impacting taste and texture and PromOat Beta Glucan, which is a soluble fiber from non-GMO Swedish oats that can help maintain healthy blood cholesterol and contribute to front-of-pack fiber claims.

To counter any potential sweetness reduction in a final product when fiber is used to reduce sugar, Tate & Lyle also offers several solutions, including its Dolcia Prima Allulose, which launched last February. The low-calorie sugar offers the functionality of table sugar but with 90% fewer calories, Fernandez noted.

In addition, Tate & Lyle has Purefruit Monk Fruit Extract, Tasteva Stevia Sweetener and Krystar Crystalline Fructose, which can add back any lost sweetness, he noted.

Fiber stands on its own

The addition of fiber to finished products also adds benefit on its own – even if it isn’t being used to reduce sugar or calories – because consumers are becoming more aware that they do not eat enough fiber each day, Fernandez said.  

“There is a certain amount of fiber per day that everyone needs to eat because fruit and vegetables are not very convenient to eat in the daily life. That is why people are not eating enough fiber that they need for the gut health, so the fact of having multiple choices rich in fiber is helping,” he explained.

Fiber supports clean label, transparency

Another mega-trend to which fiber caters well is the movement towards increased transparency and clean labels, Fernandez said.

“Consumers want to understand what they eat. So communication that is clear to help them understand what is in the formula is very important,” Fernandez said. Luckily, most consumers easily recognize fiber, making it a better option for sugar and calorie reduction than unfamiliar, chemical-sounding or proprietary named ingredients, he added.

Balancing this trend with other ostensibly conflicting shopper desires, including weight management and indulgence, is a tall order for many ingredients, but as Fernandez said fiber can deliver on all aspects.

“The holy grail will be to have a fiber that is very low in calories that you can eat a small amount of food and feel completely satisfied and you don’t need to eat more,” and also is not artificial, easily digested and still tastes good, he said.

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Photo: iStock

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