Today’s fiber solutions are designed to meet an array of health and wellness attributes, all while maintaining taste, texture and functionality.

By Marina Mayer

For years, fiber has been the center of attention for consumers aiming to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, and it won’t be leaving the limelight just yet. In fact, industry experts predict fiber will be playing an even larger role when the soon-to-be-updated 2010 Dietary Guidelines are released later this year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.

However, regardless of the recommended daily values and the proliferation of better-for-you products on the shelves, consumers still manage to come up short when it comes to bulking up on fiber.

That’s why today’s fiber solutions are designed to meet an array of health and wellness attributes, all while maintaining taste, texture and functionality.

For starters, Grain Processing Corp. (GPC) launchedTruBranF80T oat fiber, which has a low water-holding capacity, making it easier to incorporate into snacks and baked goods than most cereal-based fibers, says Tonya Armstrong, senior applications scientist for the Muscatine, Iowa-based company.

“This ingredient has a minimum of 80% insoluble fiber, a light tan color and a clean flavor profile,” she adds. “In baked goods such as cookies, muffins and nutritional bars, this ingredient can be used at levels up to 15% to maintain a moist, soft texture. In chips and cereals, higher levels ofTruBran oat fiber can be incorporated making it easy to achieve an ‘excellent’ fiber claim.”

For its part, Cargill Health & Nutrition introducedOliggo-Fiber inulin, known as “invisible fiber” that can be integrated into most snack and bakery products without affecting taste or texture.Oliggo-Fiber inulinis a prebiotic that helps promote digestive health, boost calcium absorption, maintain a feeling of fullness and support regularity.

The Wayzata, Minn.-based ingredient provider also releasedBarliv barley betafiber, which is a beta-glucan soluble fiber derived from whole grain barley that has been clinically proven to lower cholesterol, says Deborah Schulz, product manager for Cargill.

“With superior functional properties, Barliv barley betafiber can be readily incorporated into a broad variety of beverages and foods, including snack, cereal and bakery products, and can be used safely and effectively to meet growing demand in the health and wellness space,” she adds.

Likewise, Bridgewater, N.J.-based National Starch Food Innovation offers its own version of a soluble fiber withNutriose, which works well in bakery products, says Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager, nutrition.

“Hi-maize resistant starch andNutriosesoluble fibers have both been shown to promote digestive health,” she notes. “They are both fermented in the large intestine and have been shown to promote beneficial bacteria - what is called prebiotic fibers.”

To help bakers and snack producers reduce calories in their products, Tate and Lyle offersPromitor Corn Fiber, a prebiotic fiber that is well tolerated, has a low-glycemic response, is water soluble and is clean tasting, says Pashen Black, marketing communications manager for the Decatur, Ill.-based solutions provider. Designed for bars and other bakery applications,PromitorCorn Fiber functions like a corn syrup so it’s widely applicable and easy to use, she adds.   

Promitor Resistant Starch was specially formulated to have low water holding and high stability in baked goods, sheeted and extruded snacks,” Black says. “This allows it to be incorporated in the baked good with minimal impact on the sensory qualities.”

In addition, ENRECO, Newton, Wis., supplies a number of high-quality, microbially clean and stabilized flaxseed ingredients that contain a 25-28% total dietary fiber content and a high antioxidant value, about five times the average value for blueberries, says Daniel Best, director of sales.

“Functionally speaking, the soluble fiber in flaxseed is both very water absorbing and film forming,” he notes. “Thus, it can help oven- and pan-release for cookies, tortillas, pancakes and other bakery products. It can also compensate for the film-forming properties of gluten in breads and other leavened bakery products.”

Furthermore, bakers and snack producers can incorporateFibersol-2into their yeast and chemically leavened applications without disrupting taste and texture, says Käti Ledbetter, product development scientist for Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Fibersol-2[produced by a joint venture between ADM and Matsutani America, Inc.] is a 90% soluble dietary fiber that can be used to increase the soluble fiber content of baked goods and snacks,” Ledbetter says. “It is neutral in color, heat stable and flavorless. The product may make high- intensity sweeteners taste more like sugar, reduce the bitter and strong notes in whole wheat products, reduce strong emulsifier notes and add moisture and softness to various bakery products.”

Stealing the Show
Because consumers don’t get enough fiber as it is, processors need to place a larger emphasis on creating fiber-filled foods that correlate with the new guidelines yet are still enjoyable to eat, Schulz says.

“The key challenge for bakers and snack producers with added fiber is developing products with high acceptability by their consumers,” she notes. “Water uptake and binding varies between fibers, which can affect product characteristics and acceptability, especially in these bakery and snack products where serving sizes tend to be smaller. In these categories, the use of a soluble fiber, such as inulin with insoluble fibers, can be utilized to successfully develop fiber-fortified products.”

With the new Dietary Guidelines, Best says, it would be wonderful if consumers recognized baked goods as good sources of vitamins, protein, antioxidants and fiber.

“My prediction [for the new guidelines] is that they will say, ‘eat less sodium, eat more fiber, eat more bakery goods,’” he adds.

That’s why product developers and bakers are increasing the fiber content of their products to meet consumer demand, says Beth Arndt, director of R&D for ConAgra Mills, Omaha, Neb.

“As consumers become more educated about the powerful health benefits of fiber, they will look to get more of it in the baked goods and snacks they already enjoy,” she says. “The whole grain trend in general has expanded to new fronts and shows no signs of slowing down. In retail, we continue to see a steady positive shift in whole grain product market share in categories that were once dominated by refined flour products.”

On the other hand, fiber-filled products can’t always be everything to all consumers without bakers and snack producers first understanding how to properly handle them.

“It has never been more clear - not all fibers deliver the same benefits,” Witwer says. “Food companies seeking to utilize dietary fiber in foods for health benefits need to be particular about which dietary fiber they utilize and confirm that scientific studies exist that the particular dietary fiber they are using actually does, in fact, deliver the benefits they are promising or implying.”

The loss of volume and moisture migration in baked goods is another challenge that occurs when formulating with fiber, Armstrong says, along with creating fiber-filled foods that appeal to children.

“We are already seeing changes in how companies are formulating their food products,” Armstrong says. “Many companies are adding fiber to food products [that] haven’t contained fiber in the past. We expect companies to try to add at least a ‘good’ source of fiber or 3 g. per serving to improve the nutritional value of their food products being sold in the marketplace.”

Whether fiber is baked into a tortilla or hidden inside a cookie, today’s solutions have it all.

*Photo courtesy of National Starch Food Innovation