Several factors will account for the ongoing health of the booming US fibre ingredients market, according to researcher Frost & Sullivan's new report:
- Release of a new set of dietary guidelines by the US Department of Agriculture that emphasise the need for greater fibre intake
- Interest in fibre sparked by low-carb and low-glycaemic dieting
- Greater knowledge of link between lifestyle diseases and obesity
- Replacement of refined grains with whole grains
However, it notes food producers are yet to "fully recognise the consumer demand and potential of including dietary fibre as an ingredient" despite predicting the market will grow by more than 14 per cent annually until 2011, when it will be worth $500 million.
Insoluble fibres such as cellulose and lignin dominate the US fibre market, in categories as diverse as dairy, bakery, spice and supplements. Because of its high viscosity, it is increasingly used as a sugar substitute in low-sugar foods.While accounting for a much smaller slice of the fibre pie, soluble fibres such as inulin, pectin, oligofructose, maltodextrin and beta-glucan have moved onto the radar of many food makers in the US, following in Europe's footsteps.
The US soluble fibre market is growing at 26.3 per cent annually, more than double the growth in the insoluble fibres market, with applications such as prebiotics and bulk sweetener replacement performing well. "Soluble fibres such as inulin and oligofructose are increasingly being sought after to replace bulk sweeteners in food products wherein the consumer obtains the benefit of low-carb, high fibre and prebiotic with a single choice," said Frost senior research analyst Sangeetha Srinivasan. He noted manufacturers were employing a "combination of fibres to avail of the advantages of both fortification and functionality."
Despite the positive outlook, ambiguity remains about dietary reference intakes. These were established in 2002 and recommended intakes of 19-38 grams per day, depending on age and gender, but did not distinguish between insoluble and soluble fibres.
While technological advances are broadening fibres' application potential, Srinivasan noted formulation difficulties. "Fibre added to baked products has a profound effect on taste, texture and appearance, as it tends to absorb more water, thereby diluting the gluten structure, which is needed for the rising of dough."