The benefits of a healthy gut are wide-ranging - it supports the normal functioning of the body’s immune system and digestive system and has even been linked to having a positive impact on mood and emotional wellbeing.
"Because of this, it is becoming a growing focus for consumers and should be an important consideration for bakery manufacturers, too," said Olivier Kutz, bakery category director for Europe at Tate & Lyle.
In recent bakery industry research conducted among bakery professionals in Europe, the company found that 51% of those surveyed said consumers are increasingly seeking out bakery products that offer additional nutritional benefits, including those associated with gut health. As such, baked goods that can claim to improve gut health are likely to become more popular.
However, meeting this demand for gut-friendly baked goods also presents a number of challenges.
"We know that taste remains the number one purchase motivator for most global consumers, so manufacturers must find the right balance to ensure they are helping consumers to improve their gut health without impacting the quality of their products," added Kutz.
Closing the ‘fibre gap’
Fibre plays an important role in improving digestive health, but despite this knowledge, the majority of UK adults do not consume the daily recommended amount of fibre.
"This has led to what is referred to as the ‘fibre gap’ – a widening discrepancy between how much fibre we should consume, and how much we actually have in our diets.
"People are becoming more aware of the types of foods that can help them increase their fibre intake, such as those with oats and wholegrains.
"But we also know that people don’t want to make significant changes to their diet or compromise on their favourite foods. This is where fibre fortification can play an important role. It can enable bakers to increase the fibre content of their products without losing the taste and texture qualities that consumer’s love."
Tate & Lyle produces a range of tailored solutions that can help ‘top up’ the fibre content to reach a level where a fibre-related claim can be made, but still controlling the recipe cost.
"For example, wholegrains, such as those found in wholemeal bread, are a good natural source of fibre, but we know that some consumers – particularly children – prefer white bread. We can help customers to fortify white loaves with up to 12% fibre by using soluble fibres in tandem with our range of stabilisers and functional systems."
Fibre and functionality
As well as playing an important role in improving consumer’s digestive health, fibre can offer a number of functional benefits for manufacturers, like a soluble fibre that provides the mouthfeel and texture of sugar without impacting on taste.
The growing focus on gut health chimes in with the wider focus on wellness and other trends within this, including the notable shift towards clean label.
Kutz added, "Consumers are increasingly paying attention to the ingredients that are used in their favourite products, which can make ‘adding’ new ingredients to a recipe challenging. However, there are a number of clean label fibres available that can help manufacturers maintain the more holistic health credentials of their products while providing the additional gut health claims that can increase appeal to health-conscious consumers."
As awareness and education continue to increase, the consumer focus on a healthy gut is likely to continue growing. It is important for manufacturers and producers to make sure they are at the forefront of innovation in the bakery category if they want to take advantage of the opportunities this will present.