By Christian Philippsen, Managing Director, BENEO, Asia Pacific
We have now entered the post-pandemic era, with lockdowns lifting and most returning to their everyday routines. But, what doesn't appear to be returning back to normal is consumers' health consciousness that sprouted during COVID-19, and is expected to continue to rise.
According to a consumer survey on behalf of BENEO, two-thirds (64%) of consumers are now more interested in ingredients — or foods and beverages — that provide protective or preventative health benefits. With one in two global consumers saying they are aware that bacteria exist within the digestive system and that they may be beneficial to health, it is not surprising that more people are seeking out food and drink products that can improve their digestive health.
This has paved the way for the increasing popularity of dietary fibres as an ingredient in foods and beverages. However, the health benefits of dietary fibre depend on the type of fibre used as not all of them share the same technical or nutritional properties.
With so many consumers looking to improve their long-term health, the challenge that now lies ahead for food manufacturers is incorporating dietary fibres with scientifically proven benefits into their products, without compromising on taste.
Spurring the growth of good bacteria with chicory root fibres
Dietary fibres differ in the way they function in the large intestine. When the fermentation of fibres allows for a selective increase of beneficial bacteria, leading to a health benefit, they are classified as prebiotics. Only very few dietary fibres are scientifically and clinically proven to have this capability. BENEO's chicory root fibres, Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose, belong to this exclusive group of prebiotic fibres and they comply with the ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics) definition of prebiotics. In fact, a recently published systematic literature review with meta-analyses explored the effects of inulin-type fructans derived from chicory root, based on 50 human intervention studies. The findings revealed that chicory root fibre intake (starting at 3g/day) promotes significant growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut microbiome in all age groups and improves bowel function parameters. Other benefits provided by chicory root fibres relate to blood sugar management, immune health, weight management,, and calcium absorption for bone health,.
Chicory root (Photo: BENEO)
Achieving high fibre products without the cardboard taste
Given the myriad of health benefits offered by prebiotic fibres, it is no surprise the future of fibre-enriched products looks strong. In the Asia Pacific region, the prebiotics market size is anticipated to reach USD 4.9 billion by 2028, with two in three consumers (68%) reporting that they are (extremely) interested in prebiotics.
The challenge that looms large for food manufacturers is eliminating the grainy, bland 'cardboard' taste often associated with fibre-enriched food products to provide more appealing choices for the masses.
BENEO's chicory root fibres Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose are proving popular with manufacturers, as they are soluble dietary fibres that can be easily added to recipe formulations without major changes to the production process. Also, they have a mild taste and don't add an unwanted aftertaste to the end product.
Apart from increasing the fibre content, chicory root fibres also allow food manufacturers to reduce fat or sugar in food formulations, thereby improving the nutritional profile. For example, Orafti® Inulin and Oligofructose can reduce the sugar content in cookies, while maintaining the desired taste and texture of the product. In addition, Orafti® Inulin's long chain molecular structure offers fat-mimetic texturizing properties and can be used to replace part of the fat content in dairy products like yogurt or ice cream. At the same time, it provides a creamy mouthfeel.
With the help of BENEO's prebiotic chicory root fibres and thanks to their technical properties, manufacturers can offer both healthy and tastebuds-appealing fibre options to consumers, further catering to burgeoning market demands.
 FMCG Guru's COVID-19 survey. Eighteen countries surveyed in July 2020 [Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, UK, USA, Vietnam]
 Nagy DU, Sándor-Bajusz KA, Bódy B, Decsi T, Van Harsselaar J, Theis S & Lohner S (2022) Effect of chicory-derived inulin-type fructans on abundance of Bifidobacterium and on bowel function: a systematic review with meta-analyses. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. Published 14 July 2022, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2022.2098246
 Lightowler H, Thondre S, Holz A et al. (2018) Replacement of glycaemic carbohydrates by inulin-type fructans from chicory (oligofructose, inulin) reduces the postprandial blood glucose and insulin response to foods: Report of two double-blind, randomized, controlled trials. Eur J Nutr 57(3): 1259–1268. https://rd.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007%2Fs00394-017-1409-z.pdf
 Vogt L, Meyer D, Pullens G et al. (2015) Immunological properties of inulin-type fructans. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr 55(3): 414–436. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24915372
 Cani P, Joly E, Horsmans Y, Delzenne NM (2006) Oligofructose promotes satiety in healthy human: a pilot study. Eur J Clin Nutr 60(5):567–572. http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v60/n5/pdf/1602350a.pdf
 McCann MT, Livingstone MBE, Wallace JMW, Gallagher AM, Weich RW (2011) Oligofructose-enriched Inulin supplementation decreases energy intake in overweight and obese men and women. Obesity Reviews, 12(S1):63–279. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00889.x/pdf
 Abrams SA, Hawthorne KM, Aliu O, Hicks PD, Chen Z, Griffin IJ (2007) An inulin-type fructan enhances calcium absorption primarily via an effect on colonic absorption in humans. J Nutr 137(10):2208–2212. http://jn.nutrition.org/content/137/10/2208.full.pdf
 Abrams SA, Griffin IJ, Hawthorne KM, Liang L, Gunn SK, Darlington G, Ellis KJ (2005) A combination of prebiotic short- and long-chain inulin-type fructans enhances calcium absorption and bone mineralisation in young adolescents. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 82:471-476. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16087995/
 HealthFocus International Trends Studies 2022 (Asia Pacific)
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