Emerging trend

Move over gluten free and paleo: low-FODMAP diet expected to explode

By Douglas Yu

- Last updated on GMT

Rachel Pauls Foods is one of the first US startups targeting the low-FODMAP diet audiences. Pic: Rachel Pauls Foods
Rachel Pauls Foods is one of the first US startups targeting the low-FODMAP diet audiences. Pic: Rachel Pauls Foods
Snacks startup Rachel Pauls Foods predicts the low-FODMAP trend will take off within the next decade.

FODMAP is the acronym of fermentable oligo-di, mono-saccharides and polyols, which are types of short chain carbohydrates found in a variety of foods that can trigger symptoms for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), such as onions, garlic and apples.

Rachel Pauls Foods' founder and CEO Rachel Pauls and Cory Pollock said low-FODMAP diet has been trendy in Australia and New Zealand.

According to New Nutrition Business, around 30% of Americans suffer from IBS, much higher than the percentage of population diagnosed with celiac disease, which could push the diet trend further and faster than gluten-free and paleo.

Rachel Pauls Foods’ founder Rachel Pauls told BakeryandSnacks IBS sufferers have a tricky time choosing their food as FODMAP is found in various categories,.

“Gluten-free is only applied to people who have intolerance towards gluten, which is a protein from wheat. But that’s not FODMAP, which is found in common things like bread made with wheat and rye,”​ she said.

Creation of Rachel Pauls Foods

Physician and surgeon, Pauls was diagnosed with IBS personally about seven years ago and adopted the low-FODMAP diet after a series of failed medical treatments.

“It wasn’t a very common thread for doctors in the US until recently [to recommend low-FODMAP diet to IBS patients compared to Australia and New Zealand],”​ she said.

“Within two days [of trying the diet], there was an enormous change to my body… Over the years, I wanted to create a convenience food such as on-the-go bars for people with IBS.”

Rachel Pauls Foods entered the market with a line of low-FODMAP snacks, including Happy bars and Happy jerky, just over a year ago.

The products are manufactured in Chicago, while Pauls and the company’s CEO Cory Pollock manage the business from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Lab certification vs federal regulation

Pauls noted there are only a few labs in the world that are able to test the amount of FODMAP before, including Monash University in Australia.

“I read research studies on the criteria and we worked with several independent labs in the US to design lab tests through which we could certify our products to make sure they have less than 0.5g of FODMAPS per serving – that’s considered low-FODMAP,”​ she said.

“In medical literature, only validated procedures are published. So we took [that] literature to the labs and told them what testing needed to be done.

“We don’t control or dictate the testing process, [but] we get results from them to determine whether our products are low-FODMAP,”​ Pauls explained.

The big question is though if the testing procedure – and even the labeling of FODMAP content – should be regulated federally, like non-GMO and organic are.

US scientists have previously suggested FODMAP clarification on packaged goods.

According to a recent study Evaluation of FODMAP Carbohydrates Content in Selected Foods in the United States​ published in the Journal of Pediatrics, researchers said, “specific FODMAP content information may help those on a low-FODMAP diet better choose the food and manufacturer for their dietary needs.”

However, the study noted it would take time to get companies to label FODMAP content.

The current "labeling requirements may not facilitate low-FODMAP diet adherence given that they do not require the specific identification of individual FODMAP carbohydrates,”​ the study’s authors contented.

“For example, gluten-free baked goods, which were evaluated and found to contain high-FODMAP content, did not have the identified FODMAP carbohydrates on the label.”

Using e-commerce to create a low-FODMAP community

Rachel Pauls Foods sells its products solely via its website​.

“Our site is also a free resource for anyone on the low-FODMAP diet as we have a list of FODMAP ingredients and a blog that has over 100 recipes,” ​said Pollock.

“Since we launched our business, we have grown about 100% in sales… I believe the diet is ready to explode 10 years from now.”

Rachel Pauls Foods is currently developing new snack formats, but these will not be launched soon as they need to go through FODMAP testing first, said Pollock.

“Our company is going to look way different in a year or two,”​ he said.

Big guys in FODMAP-friendly foods: Nestlé, Kellogg, Schär…

Market insights firm, New Nutrition business, has noted some of the large CPG companies have tapped into the FODMAP-friendly arena, including Europe’s biggest gluten-free brand Schär. Schär’s products are certified by Monash Unviersity.

Nestlé, Kellogg, Baker’s Delight (a mass-market bakery chain in Australia), Frazer (one of the biggest bakeries in the Nordic countries) have also launched similar products.

Julian Mellentin, director at New Nutrition Business, said, “powered by the huge digestive wellness trend, which has been the motive force behind plant milks, gluten-free and others, low-FODMAP has the potential to gain followers beyond the 10%-15% of people who have IBS globally.

“Just as the gluten-free market has grown to be far bigger than the tiny percentage of the population diagnosed with celiac disease,”​ he added. “Companies will ignore it at their peril.”

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