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Consumer Attitudes About Fiber Around the World

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by Beth Nieman Hacker -

Consumers around the world are increasing their interest in food and beverage products they perceive as “healthier." Of course, most understand avoiding certain ingredients is only half the battle—in addition, many are interested in foods with added health benefits, and fiber is particularly popular.

Consumers everywhere are looking to reduce their intake of sugar, fat and calories, and increase their fiber consumption, but specific attitudes vary by region. For example, although consumers in the United States and Europe are more likely to avoid sugar than fat, those living in Latin America and the Middle East rank their concerns in the opposite order, with fat a higher concern than sugar.1 Moreover, consumers in Latin America are the most interested in increasing fiber consumption (70 percent compared to a global average of 52 percent), followed by consumers in the US (60 percent).1

More and more, manufacturers are turning to select fibers for their unique ability to deliver a satisfying sensory experience in reduced-sugar and reduced-calorie formulations while also enabling popular claims related to health and nutrition benefits such as “source of fiber,"
“digestive health" and even “heart health."

The Fiber Gap

Despite their best intentions, most consumers around the world struggle to meet the recommended guidelines for daily fiber intake. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests adults consume 25 g per day2, but most people fall short of this number. In the United States, for example, only 3 percent of consumers meet the recommended daily fiber intake.3

So, why aren’t consumers eating enough fiber? A large portion (33 percent) claim it’s because there are not enough products with fiber available in the market.1 That means manufacturers have a major opportunity to provide desired products and help narrow the fiber gap.

Why Fiber? Which Fiber?

It’s important to understand the various reasons consumers want to eat more fiber as well as the fiber sources they prefer. It’s not surprising that digestive health is the top motivator globally. Consumers in Europe also are interested in fiber for a healthy diet, whereas consumers in the Middle East are primarily interested in fiber because it helps keep them full longer. Regularity is a top driver in Asia Pacific.

As for fiber sources, most regions prefer oat, wheat, corn or barley. A majority (66 percent) of global consumers are favorable toward seeing oat fiber on a label, and 47 percent are favorable toward soluble corn fiber.

Fiber Formulation

Taste is consumers’ primary purchase driver, so it’s important to choose fibers that won’t negatively affect taste or texture. For example, some high-fiber formulations have a gritty mouthfeel, and consumers won’t tolerate that no matter how much they want to increase their fiber intake.

Important things to consider when creating a great-tasting product with fiber include:

·         Clean label—Formulate with a fiber that offers consumer-friendly labels to add more appeal to your product.

·         Digestive comfort—Avoid certain fibers that, particularly at high inclusion levels, could cause digestive discomfort.

·         Process stability—Ensure that the fiber content in your product is consistent through processing and shelf life.

It’s clear that fiber has a lot to offer manufacturers no matter where their consumers live. From a formulation perspective, fiber can improve product body and mouthfeel, which are often lost due to sugar reduction. From a marketing point of view, it also enables manufacturers to make a variety of claims related to health or nutrition benefits that resonate with consumers around the world. This means whether consumers want to eat less sugar or get more nutritional benefits, fiber can help.

Beth Nieman Hacker, director of market research at Tate & Lyle, is responsible for food and beverage category insight strategy and trend identification. She has nearly 30 years of experience in market research and analysis. In her previous role with Abbott Nutrition, she directed global research and tactical initiatives for its adult nutrition brands, facilitated projects around brand positioning and communications, and managed projects for global new product development. Nieman Hacker received her MBA and marketing from Benedictine University.

Sources:

1.       Internal research for Tate & Lyle conducted by Qualtrics; 8,800 global respondents (800 per country), 2015 (Turkey and Saudi Arabia 2016).

2.       The Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases: process, product and policy implications, http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/public_health_nut9.pdf.

3.       Marriott, B.P., L. Olsho, L. Hadden and P. Connor. (March 2010). Intake of added sugars and selected nutrients in the United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition 50(3):228–58.

4.       Nielsen Global Survey of Food Labeling Trends, March/April 2011.

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