Also a prebiotic, FiberAid made by the US-based Larex is derived from larch trees that grow in abundance in North America.
The arabinogalactan is produced exclusively by Larex using a patented manufacturing process and is water-soluble, making it well-suited for beverages.
Evidence of the health benefits of fibre - shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers - is driving demand for foods enriched with fibres. But while all fibres are thought to be growing by around 5 per cent, added prebiotic benefits could lift the new ingredient's potential further.
A study on FiberAid at the University of Minnesota found that it reduced cholesterol in hyperlipidemics and increased protective agents for the colon such as butyrate, an important short chain fatty acid. It has also been shown to enhance a healthy colon by acting as a food source for the growth of friendly bacteria.
This effect, known as 'prebiotic', has also been seen in inulin, an ingredient that is expected to grow by 9.7 per cent annually over coming years. Frost & Sullivan data show the European prebiotics market, currently worth €87 million, will reach €179.7 million by 2010.
However Dr Marco Caspani, product manager at DKSH, says that while the ingredient is priced in a similar range as inulin, it is pH stable. This compares to a pH of 4-7 with inulin. FiberAid can therefore easily be added to beverages with a low pH, such as many of the fruit drinks on the market.
"It is not very well-known in Europe but we would like to take on some of the business being done by other fibres," Caspani told NutraIngredients at Vitafoods last week.
Arabinogalactan is a naturally occurring carbohydrate present in most plant life but available most economically in the Larix species, according to Larex. The FDA approved the ingredient in the 1960's for use as a food additive and it is now GRAS (generally recognized as safe) for multiple uses across food groups.
The larch arabinogalactan is also being promoted as an immune-stimulating agent, branded by Larex as ImmunEnhancer and also recently available in Europe through DKSH.