Focusing on inulin in 2020

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Baked goods, like bread, offer a good vehicle to introduce inulin. Pic: GettyImages/HeikeRau
Baked goods, like bread, offer a good vehicle to introduce inulin. Pic: GettyImages/HeikeRau

Related tags: Fibre, Inulin, New nutrition business, Beneo, low sugar, Health and wellness

The functional fibre space is ripe for innovation, particularly as consumers continue to struggle to consume the recommended daily intake of fibre.

At present, there is no official recommended daily allowance (RDA) for dietary fibre, however, official guidelines advise about 30g-35g (men) and 20-25g (women) of fibre per day.

Foods rich in fibre deliver a myriad of health benefits; mainly a pronounced focus on gut health. However, while 44% of Americans say they have increased their consumption of fibre, according to a 2018 Innova Market Insights consumer survey, most consumers still fall far short of medical recommendations.

With the increasing focus on health and wellness, consumers are seeking out better-for-you products that can help them increase their intake of fibre.

Enter inulin

New Nutrition Business named 2020 the year of inulin.

“The confluence of the protein, low-sugar and digestive wellness trends is causing inulin to power ahead,”​ said Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business.

Inulin is a type of soluble fibre found in a variety of vegetables, like chicory root, wheat and bananas.

It belongs to a class of carbohydrates known as fructans, meaning that they’re made up of fructose molecules that are specifically linked together to prevent digestion within the small intestine. Instead of being digested, inulin travels to the gut, where it acts as a prebiotic, helping to feed and increase the number of good bacteria within the digestive system.

Using the ‘prebiotic’ claim is gaining traction across Europe. According to 2017 Beneo prebiotic research, most consumers said ‘the term prebiotic sounds healthy,’ with two out of three European respondents considering it appealing.

Inulin also helps with weight management, controlling blood sugar and improving calcium absorption.

Feel the benefit

“Inulin has become a success as a natural sugar replacer, used in an ever-growing number of products, and its presence means that companies can also flag up the enhanced fibre content on the label.”

Sales of breakfast cereals sales have slumped in recent years, but innovative brands are reawakening popularity by adding inulin to offer both a digestive wellness benefit and a low sugar promise – “two of the biggest consumer growth trends,”​ added Mellentin.

The food industry also uses inulin to substitute fat; as a humectant (to keep things moist); and as a thickening or binding agent. According to New Nutrition Business, the number of NPDs that featured inulin doubled between 2012 and 2019, and the global market is forecast to top $350m by 2024.

“For companies who choose to use inulin in their brands for digestive benefits, a big plus is that it delivers a ‘feel-the benefit’ effect – one of the most compelling reasons for someone to keep buying a product and one of the biggest marketing advantages you can have.”

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