When I pose this question, I don’t mean you personally, rather the products you formulate.

When I pose this question, I don’t mean you personally, rather the products you formulate. There are so many fiber ingredients available to product developers, that choosing what works best in a specific application can be quite overwhelming.  

According to the hot-off-the presses report Fiber Food Ingredients in the U.S. from Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md., the fiber-enriched food and beverage market is in its infancy, and hence, many ingredient suppliers are attracted to marketing fiber food ingredients. In the 1990s, there were likely less than 20 suppliers of fiber food ingredients, and most of them were marketing conventional, insoluble-type fibers. In 2010, there are more than 50 companies supplying fiber food ingredients to U.S. food formulators. They range from being global public companies that offer all types of ingredients, and sometimes even supply fiber to non-food companies, to smaller, privately owned businesses that focus only on fiber food ingredients. Some companies include research divisions and have dedicated scientists that study their proprietary, and often patented, branded fiber food ingredients in production and clinical settings. Other companies sell commodity, unbranded fibers.

And, for the most part, they are all doing quite well, as fiber is now being added to all types of foods and beverages. The report cites data obtained from Product Launch Analytics, a service of New York-based Datamonitor. It shows that flagging the fiber contents of foods is a booming business. From 2005 to 2009, the number of product line launches making a fiber content claim increased almost 65%, from 286 launches in 2005 to 471 in 2009. During this period, there were 52 reports within the dairy category, representing 2.7% of all fiber content claim launches. This is not the number of new stock-keeping units (SKUs), rather product lines. Most lines include multiple SKUs.

Packaged Facts estimates that in 2004, 91% of all fiber food ingredient sales were of conventional, insoluble-type fibers. The remaining 9% share was split evenly between conventional, soluble-type fibers and emerging, novel fibers, such as inulin and fructooligosaccharide; resistant dextrin, maltodextrin and starch; and soluble corn fiber. But by 2014, such novel fibers will have almost 40% share due to their functionality, versatility and health and wellness benefits. (See chart.)

All dairy foods marketers should be exploring the opportunities in fortifying their offerings with fiber. Because it has become such a competitive business, it is important that formulators identify their objectives and understand their options in order to make the best decision when choosing a fiber ingredient.

Fiber food ingredients historically have been added to food formulations as performance ingredients, and often not at levels high enough to make a content claim. For example, various cellulose ingredients have long been used as anti-caking agents in shredded cheese. And gums are often used in cultured products for mouthfeel and to prevent syneresis.

“Interest in boosting a food’s fiber content, and possibly making a health, nutrient content or structure/function claim is a 21st-century phenomenon,” explains Don Montuori, the report’s publisher.  “If making an approved health claim is not the goal when adding a fiber food ingredient to a formulation, and if the only objective is a nutrient content claim, fiber formulators base fiber selection on performance and price, rather than possible health and wellness benefits linked to specific fiber ingredients.”

The report indicates that at this point in time, most companies are going for the fiber content claim, rather than making any health or structure/function claims. This is likely due to FDA “clamping down” on labeling violations, as well as concern with the many varied claims being rejected by the European Food Safety Authority.

“But to make a fiber content claim, such as a ‘good source’ or ‘excellent source,’ many formulators are taking the same approach that they do with alternative sweeteners. They are blending fibers for the best result,” says Montuori.  “Twenty years ago, enriching any type of dairy product with fiber was out of the question, unless you added some whole grain granola pieces to a yogurt. Today, novel fiber food ingredients, most of which quantify as soluble fibers, or possess soluble fiber attributes, as in the case of some resistant starches, makes it possible for a cup of yogurt to be an ‘excellent source of fiber.’”

There’s no doubt in my mind that consumers understand they need to increase their daily fiber intake. Even my eight and 10-year old sons know that fiber is good for them, as fiber is now in one of their favorite breakfast cereals: Kellogg’s Froot Loops. The commercials for “now with fiber” have really made an impression on them.

Dairy can do the same!