Dietary fibre — one of America's original blockbuster nutrition ingredients, first publicised in the 1980s for aiding regularity and the prevention of colon cancer — appears to have quietly shaken its "ho-hum" status, moving back into the spotlight with a new list of health benefits and unexpectedly strong sales. According to the 2001 HealthFocus™ Trend Report, one-third of US food shoppers increased their use of fibre in the past two years. Nearly one half used oat bran/cereal to reduce the risk of disease. Information Resources Inc. reported mass-market fibre supplement sales jumped 20.4 per cent to $956 million. Furthermore dietary fibre content became the third most sought after topic for health information in supermarkets... just behind how to limit fat and calories!
And interest will escalate! The National Academy of Sciences/Food and Nutrition Board, funded by the US and Canadian governments, has proposed a new definition of dietary fibre. Formal RDIs for dietary fibre and carbohydrates are expected this fall.
Modern Health Linkages...
According to the newly released 2001 HealthFocus International Trends Report, more than 40 per cent of American and Australian shoppers and one-third of Western European and Indian shoppers say "high fibre" is an extremely or very important label claim. Americans find the health benefits of whole grains particularly believable: 81 per cent think foods made with whole grain oats can help reduce cholesterol and 81 per cent that grains, vegetables and fruits — excellent sources of fibre — may reduce the risk of some cancers.
The Natural Marketing Institute's (NMI) Natural Trends Marketplace 2000, reports that dietary fibre has one of the highest penetrations among functional food claim categories. Interest in grain-based foods appears to be somewhat higher among GMO-concerned consumers. In their study, "Consumer Attitudes to GMOs in Foods and Supplements", NMI classifies 40 per cent of American consumers as "GMO concerned." More GMO-concerned consumers have increased their usage of grain-based foods (25 per cent general population vs. 31 per cent) and slightly more use fibre supplements (17 per cent vs. 15 per cent).
Dietary fibre tops the list of consumer health connections for whole grains in 2001, which is most likely as a result of FDA's approval of a heart health/cholesterol lowering claim for whole grains. Since 1992, despite the fact that Americans have been trying to eat more high fibre, they have fallen short of the recommended 6 11 daily servings of grain foods, averaging 6.8. The increasing recognition of whole grains as a source of other "in demand" nutrients such as folic acid, antioxidants and the B vitamins; a source of energy; and as an aid to weight loss and diabetes control, will give this age-old category a new lease of life.
Market Growth And Projections
American consumers most often associate dietary fibre with whole grain breads and cereals. According to Nutrition Business Journal's "Functional Foods Report 2001," functional breads and grain sales represent 37 per cent of the US functional food market and are projected to reach $6.26 billion by year end 2001 and $7.16 billion by 2010. Functional breads and grains represent 10 per cent of the overall $57.2 billion US grains and cereals market, natural and organic three per cent and two per cent "lesser evil," i.e., low fat, low sodium, etc. foods.
Food industry interest in dietary fibre and new fibre ingredients is continuing to grow. According to New Product News/GNPD, new products carrying added/high fibre claims increased 20 per cent in 2000 vs. 1999, with 81 new products flagging their high fibre content vs. 67 in 1999. Similarly, in 1999, 27 per cent of top US food company R & D and 23 per cent of marketing executives surveyed by Prepared Foods magazine, said they felt dietary fibre was increasing in importance to them as an ingredient option... up from 15 per cent in 1995 and now ranking just behind the top three: antioxidants, vitamin E and calcium.
New Definition, New Ingredients
The National Academy of Science's Food and Nutrition Board is currently finalising an official definition of dietary fibre as well as establishing a national recommended level of intake. The Dietary Fibre Panel proposed definition is entitled, "Dietary Reference Intakes: Proposed Definition of Dietary Fibre," and available on the NAS Web site at www.nationalacademies.org/iom/fnb.
The Panel has proposed two definitions to encompass current and future non-digestible carbohydrates in the food supply: Dietary Fibre and Added Fibre. Total Fibre is the sum of Dietary Fibre and Added Fibre. The terms "soluble" and "insoluble" fibre will be phased out. Dietary Fibre will describe plant foods in which the fibre is relatively intact and other nutrients are found with the fibre. The category of Added Fibre will contain only that fibre shown to have positive health benefits. It is anticipated that the specific types of Added Fibre will be part of the food label, thus providing the consumer with additional information. The total value of dietary fibre per serving will be provided on the label by Total Fibre, the sum of Dietary Fibre and Added Fibre. The new definition will allow innovative forms of dietary fibre such as inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides to be included.
According to the Freedonia Group's study, "World Nutraceuticals," the demand for nutraceutical chemicals will increase more than 10 per cent per year to $11.2 billion in 2004. Functional food additives will generate the fastest growth stimulated by new products, growing price flexibility and an increasing number of health conscious consumers.
Isolated soya protein, oat bran, psyllium and calcium will provide the best opportunities among nutrients and minerals based on proven health benefits and broadening end-use applications. The demand for soya and fibre nutrients for liquid meal substitutes, energy boosting shakes, sports beverages and fortified foods will provide the strongest growth opportunities based on consumer preference to obtain nutritional requirements through normal dietary practices.
Nutraceutical-related demand for fibre additives will increase just over five per cent annually to $250 million in 2004. Reflecting confirmed or partially confirmed health benefits, oat bran, psyllium and soya fibre will provide the best growth opportunities. Conversely, fierce pricing competition and end-user preferences for higher value ingredients will weaken the overall market for cellulose and vegetable gum fibre. Among other fibre, pectin will fare the best in nutraceutical applications based on a combination of cost, quality, performance and versatility advantages (Freedonia Group, Cleveland, OH, 2001).
Worldwide Market Waiting...
In conclusion, a global flurry of new product activity including major trends to oat drinks, rye-based heart friendly products, heart disease preventative cereals/bars, whole grain menopause products as well as the acceptance of designer fibre including prebiotics (inulin and FOS) will open a new world of product options and make for exciting consumer news. Large established markets already exist worldwide. In Japan, high-fibre drinks and food products represent a strong category, with FOSHU approval for a wide variety of fibre and prebiotics. While the European market is currently less developed, interest in whole grains and fibre is rising. With such a well-established market for dietary fibre, it is quite clear that a new ingredient, particularly one that could be linked to these emerging and exciting health claims, would be very well received.
—Dr. A. Elizabeth Sloan
Sloan Trends & Solutions, Inc.
P.O. Box 461149
Escondido, CA 92046