How can food & drink brands tap into the high fibre trend?

Dave Hoogakker
May 30, 2024
5 min read
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How can food & drink brands tap into the high fibre trend?

Fibre is having its moment in the food trend spotlight. 

Once associated with bland bran cereals or shunned in favour of low-carb creations, consumers are coming back to the importance of eating a diet high in fibre. 

But before you rush to reformulate your products to increase their fibre content, there are a few things you’ll need to consider…  

Why is fibre trending in food? 

Many people struggle to get enough fibre. According to industry research, the average American consumes only 15 grams of fibre per day, while the average UK intake is around 18 grams

Fibre has long been associated with healthy bodily functions. It’s been scientifically proven to lower cholesterol levels, regulate bowel movements, control blood sugars, and support weight management. However, low-carb food trends like the carnivore diet have impacted fibre consumption in recent years. 

Consumers are now waking up to the health benefits of a high-fibre diet, which is encouraging many people to prioritise fibre-rich foods. 

According to the International Food Information Council (IFIC), 61% of people actively try to consume more fibre, and 90% plan to increase their fibre intake through food sources rather than dietary supplements. 

How much do consumers know about fibre? 

While most people know eating more fibre is a good thing, many aren’t aware of the different types of fibre that food may contain. For example: 

Natural versus added fibre: foods naturally rich in fibre include grains and legumes, cruciferous vegetables, oats, fresh and dried fruit, nuts and seeds.

However, many food products (including cereal, ice cream, and yoghurt) have ingredients added to them during the manufacturing process to increase their fibre content. This is referred to as added fibre, functional fibre, or isolated fibre. Product packaging will list the type of ingredient that has been added to increase its fibre content—for example, inulin, chicory inulin, or vegetable fibres. 

There’s no health difference between consuming natural versus added fibre, although some people complain that added fibre sources make them feel bloated or gaseous. 

Soluble versus insoluble fibre: different types of fibre are handled by the body differently. Soluble fibre dissolves internally to form a gel-like substance, which can help to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. 

But the body can’t digest insoluble fibre, so it passes through your digestive system. It attracts water to your stool, which places less strain on the bowel and can help to promote digestive health. It’s a bit like a broom helping to clean your house! 

What’s the recommended daily fibre intake? 

While people understand the importance of eating fibre, one issue with promoting its consumption is a lack of consistent nutritional guidance. 

Across Europe, most national dietary guidelines recommend a daily intake of 25-35g of fibre for adults. This ranges from 30-35g for men and 25-32g for women. 

In the USA, meanwhile, the recommended dietary fibre intake is 28g per day. 

In Asia, fibre recommendations are even lower. The Singapore Health Promotion Board advises a daily intake of 20g for women and 26g for men, while Japan recommends a minimum of 18g for women and 21g for men. 

There are also key differences in how fibre content is incorporated into food nutrition labelling. For example, dietary fibre is subtracted from carbohydrate levels on EU nutrition labels. However, fibre is listed separately in the USA, and consumers need to deduct this figure from the total carbohydrate content to calculate their net carbs. 

What are the benefits of prioritising fibre in your products? 

Fibre is enjoying its moment in the food trend spotlight, so it makes sense to prioritise it in product formulation.

We’ve noticed several examples of food brands formulating their products to increase fibre content. For example: 

  • Soda brands Olipop and Poppi both contain inulin, a type of dietary fibre
  • Nakd had released two Fruit & Fibre bars: apple & cinnamon and strawberry & raspberry 
  • Perkier reformulated its snack bars to contain 7.5g chicory fibre
  • Rowntrees launched a range of gummy sweets containing soluble corn fibre
  • Tate & Lyle developed a non-dairy fibre-enriched soft serve ice cream

In addition to appealing to diet-conscious consumers, high-fibre products can score better in nutritional rating systems. For instance, in the UK, a high fibre content can help to lower the HFSS score for food and beverage products. It can also help boost your products' Nutri-Score ratings. 

What are the challenges of promoting high-fibre products? 

While boosting fibre content feels like a no-brainer for food and drink brands, promoting this aspect of your products is easier said than done. 

Firstly, product claims are validated differently, depending on what you say. For example, there’s a difference between saying your product is a source of fibre versus high in fibre

A product in the EU and UK must contain at least 6g fibre per 100g or 3g per 100 kcal to be classed as high fibre. It only needs to contain 3g of fibre per 100g or 1.5g per 100 kcal to be classified as a source of fibre. 

In the USA, products that contain at least 10% of the recommended daily fibre intake or 2.8g fibre per reference serving can claim to be a good source of fibre. To be classed as high fibre, they must contain at least 20% of the recommended daily intake or 4.6g per reference serving. 

What should you consider when developing high-fibre products? 

In addition to following local product claims rules, it’s also worth considering the type of fibre you’re incorporating into new products. 

For example, psyllium husk can be an attractive way to increase fibre content in low-carb products. 50g of psyllium husk powder has around 5.5 grams of net carbs, making it a popular ingredient in the keto diet. 

If you’re adding fibre, it’s important to look at the classification of the ingredients you choose. In the USA, for example, the FDA currently recognises seven types of isolated or synthetic carbohydrates as meeting the definition of dietary fibre: 

  • Beta-glucan soluble fibre
  • Cellulose
  • Guar gum
  • Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose
  • Locust bean gum 
  • Pectin
  • Psyllium husk

But others, such as polydextrose, gum arabic or glucomannan are not yet included in the definition of dietary fibre.

Equally, some food and drink brands use cellulose to increase fibre content as it mixes easily with water and doesn’t alter the overall product flavour. However, cellulose is classed as a food additive in some markets and therefore may need to be listed separately on the ingredients label of your products. It also may deter health-conscious shoppers who prefer products with a ‘natural’ added fibre source. 

If you’re considering a novel fibre, you may need to jump through additional regulatory hoops to get products approved as high in fibre. However, it’s worth watching local legislation, which continually evolves.

If you’d like support with formulating your products to increase their fibre content or validating fibre product claims, Hooley Brown can help you create, package and market your products. 

Drop us a line to set up a 30-minute video call, and we can chat all things fibre. 

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