Fiber: Today's 'It' Ingredient
From breakfast cereal to chocolate bars, fiber is the new darling of the food world.
Fiber. It's the new all-star ingredient stealing the spotlight in toaster
pastries, yogurt, canned soups, even ice cream.
Some fiber standbys are bumping up their servings, too. From whole-wheat
bread to cereal bars drizzled with dark chocolate, the number of processed
foods with extra fiber is growing.
Manufacturers introduced 782 products with fiber claims on package labels in
the past year, according to the Nielsen Company, a marketing research firm. In
the summer of 2005, some 2,000 products advertised fiber on the label. In 2009,
according to Nielsen, nearly 3,500 do.
Among the familiar foods with newly added fiber are some varieties of
Progresso Soup that contain more than one-fourth of a day's recommended intake,
and Kellogg's Froot Loops and Apple Jacks cereals.
Is this sudden infatuation with dietary fiber just another food
fad? Have Americans finally embraced the once-lowly ingredient long-associated
with prune juice and bran muffins? WebMD examines the forces driving fiber's
Froot Loops and Fiber
Kellogg is one company seeking to satisfy the demand for more fiber. It
plans to boost the fiber content of most of its cereals to at least 10% of the
recommended daily amount by the end of 2010.
Kellogg is starting its fiber-boosting campaign with children's cereals
because of research that shows mothers are concerned about how much fiber their
children get, says Nelson G. Almeida, PhD, the company's vice president of
global nutrition science, labeling, and
marketing. A serving of revamped Froot Loops has jumped from less than a gram
of fiber to 3. The sugar content remains the same at 13 grams, about 3
"If we can find a way to provide more fiber to our consumers, if we need to
add a little bit of sugar or sweetness to the product to be able to have them
eat it, I think it's a good thing," Almeida says.
Boosting Fiber Is Easier Than Ever
The boom in foods with added fiber comes as food manufacturers are tapping
into demand for functional foods, which supply health benefits beyond
nutrition. New technologies have created fiber that is easier to add to foods
and tastier, Almeida says.
Much of the fiber added to the newest wave of fortified foods is soluble and
comes from inulin, a plant compound commonly extracted from chicory root that
can make low-fat foods taste creamier and add sweetness. Inulin also is derived
from byproducts of sugar production from beets. Soluble corn fiber, which
replaces traditional sweeteners as well as adding fiber, is also turning up on
"Companies have been realizing this is a relatively easy thing to do to
enhance a food," says Mary Camire, PhD, professor of food science and human
nutrition at the University of Maine and president of AACC International,
formerly the American Association of Cereal Chemists. "The technology is there,
and the science on the benefits of fiber is improving."