Consumers see the benefit of fiber and whole grains

By Sarah Hills

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

More consumers in the US are becoming aware of fiber and are trying to increase their consumption of whole grains as part of a healthy diet, according to a new survey.

Foods and beverages with added health and wellness benefits continue to influence purchase decisions, according to The 2008 Food & Health Survey: Consumer Attitudes toward Food, Nutrition & Health, which was commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Yet while awareness of various carbohydrates remained stable over the last couple of years, awareness of fiber and whole grains were an exception as they increased “significantly”, the survey found.

Similarly when Americans were asked which specific elements they refer to on the nutrition facts panel of a label, 52 percent said fiber, compared to 42 percent in 2006. And 78 percent of those who were aware of whole grains said they were trying to increase their consumption.

Food and drink manufacturers are seeking new sources of dietary fiber and new ways to incorporate these into products as consumer awareness increases.

Soluble fiber in particular has been researched for its benefits to digestive health, as well as weight management since it can boost satiety, reducing the tendency to snack.

Market research firm Frost and Sullivan predicts that by 2011 the fiber market will have more than double in the US to $470m.

Meanwhile there is growing evidence which suggests that whole grains provide vitamins, minerals and high levels of antioxidants. They have also been shown to help reduce the risk factors for a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

The US government advised in its 2005 Dietary Guidelines that Americans should consume upwards of three ounce-equivalents of whole grain products per day and as a result, there has been an increase in products making whole grain claims.

Survey results

The Food & Health Survey is the third annual national study which shows how consumers view their own diets, their efforts to improve them, and their understanding of the food components in their diets.

It pointed out that taste and price continued to have the greatest impact on Americans’ decisions to buy foods and beverages, but added: “Consumer attitudes remain highly positive in 2008 with regard to foods and beverages with added health and wellness benefits.

“When asked whether they agree or disagree that foods and beverages can provide a wide array of specific health benefits (for example, heart health), 60 percent or more of Americans either somewhat or strongly believed in the stated benefit.”

A recent report by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that dietary fiber information is the only labeling component to have seen an increase in use by US consumers, suggesting growing interest in the ingredient’s health benefits.

Between 1995-96 and 2005-06, consumer use of nutrition labels when making food purchases declined but the use of information about fiber saw an increase of two percent.

The report was prepared to help the US government understand the trend in use of various nutrition labels as the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering modifications to the format and content of food nutrition labels.

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