The natural foods industry growth is compelling, with forecasts of 15%-20% yearly, says PaineWebber analyst Mark Hanratty. In line with this, a Datamonitor analysis projects the U.S. organic market will reach a value of $30.7 billion by 2007, with a five-year compound annual growth rate of 21.4% between 2002 and 2007, compared to a 21.2% rate between 1997 and 2002. Couple this with the increased percentage of products being marketed as fiber-enriched, and you have the makings for some strong product formulations.
Grain Millers (Eugene, Ore.), one of the largest oat milling companies in North America, has developed a line of products that are both all-natural and provide the excellent functionality and health benefits of oats and fibers. Unlike other oat fibers on the market, the company claims its oat fiber is truly natural. Other leading oat fiber brands use chemical treatments to refine the oats. This involves bleaching cellulose and hemicelluloses that are present in oat hulls with hydrogen peroxide, and then neutralizing the oat fiber with sulfuric acid. Additionally, most of the oat hull's naturally occurring nutrients are lost during processing.
Better Processing for a Better FiberWhen Grain Millers first evaluated this process, company officials were concerned about its impact on the environment, due to the effluent produced. The process also resulted in a product that lacked purity, with extreme pH ranges. Thus, the company decided to develop an environmentally friendly process that would create a product with no label misrepresentations. Grain Miller's Oat Fiber truly can be considered natural because the ingredient is modified only through mechanical means, while still targeting the same functionality as other oat fiber products.
Not only has the oat fiber eliminated the “sand-like” sensation of many fiber products, but the naturally occurring lipids have been stabilized by inactivating lipid-degrading enzymes. Due to this natural process, the oat fiber is the only one on the market that is available as organically certified, says the supplier.
Grain Millers also has stabilized oat bran and wheat bran powder products that are 100% pure. Stabilized Oat Bran Powder is available in both organic and conventional options and contains high concentrations of both insoluble and soluble fibers. It is a good source of beta-glucan. In fact, due to this water-soluble fiber, the ingredient can be used in functional food formulations to help meet FDA's “heart healthy” labeling claim. Grain Millers' Stabilized Wheat Bran Powder is a finely-ground, insoluble fiber that has both functional and health attributes for label claims. Additionally, it is shelf-stable for use in both pharmaceutical and food ingredient products.