Fortifying the Market with Fiber Supplements

by Cassandra R. March 31, 2016

Fibers are a staple part of a healthy diet, due to its digestive/gut benefits, hunger satiety, and its weight management properties.Fiber supplements are primed to experience significant growth in the coming decade. Consumers are increasingly self-educating on what nutrients they should incorporate into their daily lives, and continue to become more health conscious. Fiber—long held as a necessary ingredient for optimal digestive health, weight management, and other benefits—has remained prominent amid the breakthrough of other ingredients. This is due to consumers' positive associations with fiber and its claims. Global Industry Analysts report that the whole grain and high fiber foods market will reach up to $27.6 billion by 2017, with the United States leading in terms of sales. A closer look at this sector shows that the fiber market itself is currently valued at $2.3 billion. According to the market research firm Markets and Markets, this value is estimated to reach $3.25 billion by next year, with North America having the lead revenue share of 36%, followed by Europe and the Asia-Pacific. By 2020, the fiber sector is expected to rise to $4.31 billion, with a CAGR of 13.2%.

Drivers of influence in this market include growing health problems within the population, advanced nutritional technologies, increased dietary-consciousness, and higher disposable income. Fiber is currently implemented in many food products such as cereals, nutrition bars, and beverages, as well as fiber supplements, to help consumers get their daily recommended intake of the nutrient.

Fiber Health Benefits

One of fiber's greatest strengths as an ingredient is its well-known reputation within the health sphere. Its versatile nature of providing multiple health benefits has made it one of the most frequently used additives in food product formulations. As a form of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber swells as it absorbs water, and can promote different benefits depending on whether it is a soluble or insoluble fiber. Fiber can help lower cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, as well as curb appetite by promoting satiety, making it a viable asset for weight management efforts.

Several studies regarding fiber's effect on a spectrum of health areas has only proven to solidify its importance in maintaining a balanced diet. The 2011 National Institutes of Health (NIH)-AARP Diet and Health Study helped establish that regular intake of dietary fiber (specifically vegetable fiber), was significantly associated with a lower rate of mortality, reducing the risk of several chronic diseases. Another study, the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, published in 2013, reported that people participating in diets that were rich in fiber were likely to have a lower risk of breast cancer. With a range of benefits that include gut health, blood sugar maintenance, as well as a possible lower rate of fatal diseases, fiber has only increased its already high standing in the eyes of both consumers and nutritionists.

Fibers are considered an ideal ingredient for the health conscious consumer due to its pristine nutritional profile. Not only does it offer much-wanted digestive health and weight loss benefits, but when used in formulations, fiber can help adjust the texture of food and supplement products by improving both viscosity and mouthfeel. It is also essential due to its purity, allergen status and its compliance to claims including non-GMO, kosher, halal, and vegetarian.

Current Fiber Intake vs. Reality

The Institute of Medicine (IOM), Washington recently estimated that individuals of all ages should aim to get 14 grams of fiber per every 1,000 calories consumed for maximum benefits. This number is further categorized into 38g for men and 25g for women. Yet, according to the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), only around 3% of all Americans meet the recommended dietary intake for fiber. Further contributing to this number are the estimated 67% of consumers who mistakenly believe they are already getting the necessary levels of fiber in their diets. The IFIC's 2013 Functional Food Consumer Survey researched several major vitamins and nutrients. They noted that there is an actual increase in consumer awareness for attaining the necessary nutrients in their diet. This seemed to be the case, even despite the supposed disconnect among actual intake and consumer perception. Out of several major nutrients investigated, including vitamin D, vitamin C, B vitamins and calcium, fiber stood out as one of the most common categories that showed a significant amount of the population struggled with perception versus intake. This meant that they believed they were taking in more fiber than what they actually consumed.

Yet the drive for consuming more fiber is still prominent for many health-conscious consumers. According to the IFIC 2013 survey, a large majority of U.S. consumers already connect fiber with optimal digestive health (85%) and weight management (72%). Additionally, as many as 60% of American consumers check a product's ingredients to see if it contains fiber before purchasing.

Soluble and Insoluble Fiber

Vegetables and fruits each contain a high amount of dietary fiber. Despite health concerns among consumers, a high percentage of people do not get the recommended daily intake of fiber.Dietary fiber can employ varying benefits for the human body, which is determined by the type of fiber that is used in the formulation. These fibers are further categorized as either insoluble or soluble. Soluble fibers are compounds that dissolve within water. Much of this type includes fruits and vegetables such as apples, citrus fruits, carrots, legumes, and also grains like barley, oats, and oatmeal. Insoluble fibers are those that don't dissolve in water and simply absorb it, making them valuable bulking agents when used in formulations. Foods that fit in this category include whole-wheat breads, rye, rice, wheat-based cereals, grains such as potatoes and flaxseeds, and vegetables like cabbage, beets, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and turnips.

Insoluble fibers mostly affect bowel movement and help create the feeling of satiety within the digestive tract. These types of fibers essentially contain zero calories, and are also known to provide more satisfaction from chewing. Overall, insoluble fibers hydrate the intestines, allowing waste to move more easily.

Soluble fibers are mostly known for benefiting overall digestive health. Dietary fibers such as gums, pectin and hydrolyzed fibers are soluble, and can create a gel when blended with a liquid. These fibers slow down the movement of food in the intestines, minimizing hunger while limiting the absorption of nutrients. The body burns more sugar for energy as a result, instead of storing it as fat, making these fibers vital for weight management formulations and supplements.

A Portfolio of Fiber Vitamin Ingredients

Dietary fibers are a versatile ingredient in formulations, as they can mask bitter flavors, stand in for sugar or fat, and serve very well as a prebiotic, whether in functional foods or beverages. According to Frost & Sullivan, the prebiotic fiber market is estimated to double in size, reaching over $220 million by the end of 2016.

The ingredients in fibers are varied, demonstrating multiple benefits across the health spectrum. Inulin and oligofructose are examples of soluble fibers that provide functional benefits for digestion, as well as serve as a sugar and fat replacement. These fibers are naturally sourced from chicory root, otherwise known as an ‘invisible' fiber, as it can be incorporated into nearly any food product without changing functionality, appearance, or taste. This is mainly used in dairy products to produce a creamy texture and low-calorie dressings. It can also be used in fillings to reduce sugar and calories for weight management. The difficulties that inulin and oligofructose can present are moisture management issues due to the hygroscopic nature of the compound, meaning it tends to absorb moisture from the air. Inulin by itself is very flexible in a number of product applications which include dietary supplements. The ingredients also function well as a prebiotic, by promoting the growth of Bifidobacteria and helping the body absorb calcium to increase bone density.

Fiber Supplement Specifics

The most common ingredients for dietary supplements include wheat dextrin and psyllium. Wheat dextrin is a soluble fiber extracted from wheat starch. It helps reduce levels of cholesterol, and is routinely used to add fiber in a number of processed foods. According to studies by the University of Michigan Health System, wheat dextrin may cause less gas and bloating than other fiber supplements. Wheat dextrin supplements contain a small amount of gluten however, disqualifying them from any gluten-free claims.

Psyllium is a soluble fiber that can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) effectively, and is used extensively by supplement manufacturers for added fiber— making it a viable bulk laxative. Capsules, tablets, and wafers make up the preferred delivery system methods. This ingredient is approved by the FDA, and is linked to the reduced risk of coronary heart disease due to past clinical studies. Products with psyllium as an active ingredient, such as psyllium fiber pills supplements, can make health claims regarding cholesterol reduction and improving cardiovascular function. Disadvantages of psyllium are that its structure thickens quickly, making it difficult to formulate in beverages. Psyllium is best used as a fiber supplement, and can be marketed for cholesterol reduction and heart support.

According to Calorie Council Nutrition, there are more than 50 types of fiber ingredients available to formulators, each with differing health benefits. This wide selection of ingredients includes bulking fibers that add bulk to stool and reduce constipation, viscous fibers that may help lower cholesterol plus maintain blood sugar, and fermentable fibers that provide immune support and increase mineral absorption. However, when it comes to formulating fiber supplements, supplement manufacturers, and formulators generally utilize the soluble-fiber type of these ingredients. Some exceptions are fiber supplements in powder form which contains a fusion of both soluble and insoluble to play off fiber's strength.

Maneuvering the Fiber Market

The aging demographic is a large target for fiber supplement manufacturers, due to poor diets and digestive health issues. Young consumers, however, are also increasing their fiber intake for preventative measures.In 2015, around 3.6% of global food and drink product launches have used a number of claims for fiber including, ‘high fiber,' ‘source of fiber,' and ‘added fiber,' according to Innova Market Insights. These claims have increased to 4.8% of launches in North America, and 9% in Australia. Frequent in the cereal, bakery goods, and ready meals categories, fiber claims are rising to the forefront of nutritional information. Cereals currently make-up the majority of claims, followed by bakery goods. As consumer awareness grows, manufacturers and formulators are finding ways to create innovative products with fiber-added nutrition to appeal to the seeking demographic.

While supplements are not the dominant delivery system for fiber, the market is growing. Market research by IBSWorld's Dietary Fiber Supplement Manufacturing measured the market at $299 million, with annual growth between 2007 and 2012 at 0.3%. For consumers increasingly valuing convenience, supplements are primed to help individuals get their valuable daily intake without much hassle. The aging population is a target demographic for fiber supplements. Poor diets and constipation issues have a greater effect on the body as we age. Easy-to-swallow fiber supplements, usually formulated as capsules, can be marketed towards the elderly community in conjunction with the benefits of fiber. However, marketing fiber supplements shouldn't exclude the younger generation, as consumers in this age group are educating themselves on the importance of fiber and the benefits of preventing digestive and obesity problems in the future.

Psyllium fiber supplements are the most used within the market. Educating consumers on psyllium-specific benefits can help raise awareness about its many advantages. According to Frost & Sullivan, regular intake of psyllium dietary fiber could help avoid expensive hospitalization costs of around $4.38 billion per year, with cumulative savings of $35.05 billion between the years 2013 and 2020. Bringing light to these statistics can portray fiber supplements as essential products for preventative health care.

Ipsos Public Affairs conducted a survey in 2012 for the Council for Responsible Nutrition on the use of dietary supplements. 8% of adults over the age of 55 within the United States were regular users of fiber supplements. This leaves out a large 92% that do not choose, or were unaware of the benefits of supplementation. With current intake levels very low, educating consumers on the recommended value of fiber may also bring more awareness towards supplementation.

FDA Difficulties

Formulating fiber supplements and products are not without a few hurdles. The heavy levels of FDA regulation, and the constant product testing and approvals can make fiber product innovation a drawn-out process. There has also been a recent amendment by the FDA on changing the definition of dietary fiber, (originally meaning the edible part of plants or carbohydrates that are resistant to digestion) and have it reflect the total fiber definition, as provided by the Institute of Medicine. This will now include non-digestible soluble and insoluble compounds. The current definition will limit supplement manufacturers and formulators when conducting human studies to show fibers beneficial effects, and can hamper down health claims. However, this is more applied to the manufacturing of complex products, including functional foods and beverages. Fiber supplements still show strength in more simple formulations, or playing up to the strengths of single-ingredient fiber capsules that have already proven their effectiveness.

Takeaways of the Fiber Market

The fiber market is diversifying into a variety of food products. Snack/nutrition bars are among the best-selling, priming the market for convenient, on-the-go nutrition, such as with fiber supplements.As an under-consumed nutrient, fiber supplements show high potential if presented to consumers regarding its health benefits, savings on health care costs, and current low intakes as demonstrated in previous studies. Current drivers for fiber growth include the growing aging population, increased consumption of supplements, and consumer awareness over the importance of fiber intake. In previous years, supplements have been overshadowed by fiber-infused foods and beverages, but are now primed to gain more strength in the market as consumer education rises. 62% of consumers are making strides in increasing their daily fiber intake, and companies that demonstrate the ease and convenience of their products will gather attention and help reach their full market potential.

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