The case for consuming a diet high in fiber long has been established in scientific journals and, consequently, it is an integral part of dietary guidance for Americans. Arguably, however, fiber may have been upstaged or overshadowed by its carbohydrate cousin, whole grains. The whole grains health claim momentum and affiliated new product launches might suggest that the days of fiber as a single major attraction may be over, fading into a background of whole grains and overall product (ingredient) functionality.
Fiber vs. Whole Grains
While the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage people to consume more fiber, whole grains actually receive more frequent and direct mention. (See www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/
dga2005/document/html/chapter5.htm.) Specifically, in the “top line” key recommendations, Americans are advised to “consume three or more ounce-equivalents of whole-grain products per day, with the rest of the recommended grains coming from enriched or whole-grain products. In general, at least half the grains should come from whole grains.” Fiber, on the other hand, gets no specific mention at all. Therefore, it should be no surprise to witness an escalation in new product launches containing whole grainâ€”versus fiberâ€”over the past five years.
While the whole grain-affiliated new product category grew by 740% between 2002-2006, fiber grew 284% with much of whole grain-affiliated growth occurring between 2005 and 2006. Despite seemingly aggressive growth, however, whole-grain claims do not appear among the top 10 most frequently used claims accompanying new product launches in 2006. Products with natural, “clean labels” and kosher ingredients led the claims category.
The Whole Grains and Fiber Story
While consumers have glommed on to whole-grain goodness, two areas of confusion have emerged. First, consumers (and even some nutrition professionals) are not clear on what constitutes a whole grain. Second, buying whole-grain products does not necessarily equate to high fiber. According to the article “Beliefs About Whole-grain Foods by Food and Nutrition Professionals, Health Club Members, and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children Participants/State Fair Attendees,” published in the November 2006 edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, “the major benefit of eating whole grains was reported to be fiber intake.” Breads and cereals were the categories most frequently affiliated with whole grains. Appearance and color were also identified as a means to identify whole grain content or lack of it, with “white foods” frequently identified as sharing no affiliation with whole grains. These observations are important from a fiber standpoint because the color of a grain does not translate to fiber content of the grain. In other words, brown does not mean “high,” and white does not necessarily mean “low.” As the chart “Fiber Content of Whole Grains” shows, color is not a good indication of fiber concentration, since brown rice and (black) wild rice are among the lowest sources of fiber among whole grains.
Adding validity to the point that whole grains are not affiliated with a good source of fiber, a query of the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) database for 2006 whole-grain new product launches that are also high in (added) fiber revealed a mere five products. Of these, only one was truly high in fiber (7g), namely 8 Whole Grain Penne Regate Pasta from Raconto. Interestingly, searching GNPD new product launches during 2006 for “high fiber” and “wholegrain” revealed only one new product launch with this specific claim. The product, Fiber One Heart Healthy Blend from General Mills, contains 8g of fiber derived from its whole-grain content of barley, oats and wheat. This product reflects an excellent health “catch-all,” given its high content of fiber, beta-glucan and whole grain.
Querying the database for “high fiber” only yielded four additional new products in 2006. Gnu Foods launched its Flavor and Fiber line of bars in August, with each bar featuring 12g of fiber. El-Diaz capitalized on the naturally high fiber content of guava with its organic Guayaba in Syrup product containing 14g of fiber per serving. Guava also is an excellent source of vitamins A and C.
So Where Did the Fiber Go?
The overt use of fiber on product packaging has diminished; however, the use of fiber in formulations has not. In fact, it is being used quite prolifically, becoming part of a gallery of ingredients creating a “better-for-you” halo. These ideas play out in a number of ways.
Organic Bistro Whole Life Meals launched a line of frozen meals in July 2006, replete with “whole” ingredients. The company’s Wild Salmon Whole Life Meal, for example, contains brown rice, broccoli, cranberries, walnuts and flax meal, all of which contribute to a natural 7g of fiber. In the similar “whole and natural” channel is Whole Foods’ Whole Kitchen Lemon Chicken Meal with brown rice and vegetables. The product is kosher-certified and contains 5g of fiber.
Foods that meet consumer demands for natural/organic, wholesome and “good for me,” products in a convenient format have significant growth potential. Across the country, retailers are rapidly expanding their grab-and-go cases to meet dinner hour needs with fresh home-style meal options.
In the same vein but with a different hue, Garden of Life launched an Organic Perfect Food Bar. Interestingly enough, despite its claim of containing 21 organic vegetables and “as much fiber as five cups of Romaine lettuce,” the bar yields a mere 5g of fiber per serving.
Fiber Without Hype and Prebiotics
There have been a number of new product launchesâ€”many in the snack categoryâ€”that are excellent or good sources of fiber; however, fiber is only one of many ingredients adding functionality and contributing to a healthy profile. The company Matter of Flax launched Matter of Flax Whole Life Flax Krisps in July 2006. While the product contains 9g of fiber, the product focuses on its omega-3 fatty acid content as well as its organic ingredients that are also preservative-, wheat- and gluten-free. Fiber is a wallflower. Organic Golden Flax Crackers from Food Alive promotes its high (6g) fiber content, but equally its gluten-free and omega-3 content.
In a related way, Kashi launched its Kashi Vive, touted as a “probiotic digestive wellness cereal,” with probiotics driving its wellness, digestive functionality and high fiber claim. While the front of the package clearly states that the cereal provides “46% of your daily value for fiber,” fiber appears to take a secondary role to the global goodness of probiotics. (See the article entitled “Focusing on Three Emerging Nutritional Trends” in this March 2007 issue of Prepared Foods for more information on Kashi’s Vive cereal.)
In a full text search for inulin and chicory root in 2006 new product launches, the Mintel GNPD yielded only eight products, three of which were meal replacement formats. Two new products from Nutiva are superfood drink mixes. The Amazon Acai blend contains a superfood Amazon blend: organic mesquite pods, organic Sambazon açai, organic maca, organic Brazil nut protein and organic tropical fruit flavor. The Berry Pomegranate contains a superberry blend replete with organic berries, organic sambazon açai and organic goji berries. Both blends contain inulin from chicory root and 8g of dietary fiber.
The rather sluggish momentum of new products with added fiber claims is mirrored around the world. (See “Going Global” sidebar.) As this article points out, however, the lack of fiber claims does not equate to products that lack fiber. Food companies go beyond using whole grains, fruits and vegetable components to pump up their products’ fiber profile. Ingredients such as inulin and beta-glucan have already been mentioned, but the list of fiber-fortifying ingredients that appeared in new products this last year is lengthy. For example, some ingredients, like glucomannan, are found primarily in health care products. It is the key ingredient in a glucomannan supplement “supporting healthy cholesterol levels by providing the feeling of fullness and aiding regularity” by NOW Foods. Very commonly, many fibers simply play a supporting role to “whole foods” components. Psyllium showed up in a recently launched Fiberful health bar from Trader Joe’s. The product has 6g of fiber in a 19.85g bar. Psyllium husk and inulin contribute additional fiber beyond what is already present in flaxseed meal and the dried pulp of eight different fruits and berries such as apple, boysenberry and cherries.
Such ingredients will likely provide a palette of options for artistic food formulators in the coming years. NS
Much of the new product information in this article was derived from the Mintel Global New Products Database, www.gnpd.com, 312-932-0400.
When it comes to adding fiber, the U.S. is the most prolific market, followed by Spain and China. Notable innovations include fruit juice and milk products with added fiber, such as V-Young 18 Milk & Fruit Juice Drink from Taizini, China, enriched with 18 nutritional elements, prebiotics and dietary fiber. Also of interest was Ser Manzanas Deliciosas apple juice and milk drink from Mastellone Hnos., Buenos Aires. This multi-functional product is formulated with a low-lactose skim milk, fortified with calcium and vitamins A, C and D, added active fiber, gluten-free and low in sugars, fat and calories.
In the same liquid vein, there is some trending toward punching up the natural goodness of fruit or vegetable juice blends with added fiber. Case in point: Hopy Sárgarépa Narancs Fruit and Vegetable Juice, from the Gramex company, Hungary, boosts this carrot-and-orange blend with fiber. San Attiva Low Calorie Fruit Juice from Spumador, Parma, Italy, contains fiber, orange, kiwi and strawberry that, together, reportedly help regulate the digestive tract.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MINTEL Global New Products Database