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Formulation challenges when increasing fibre content in food and dairy product development.

Foods With Fibre Boost

By Robert Klein

The demand from consumers to increase fibre content in foods and beverages has become nearly as loud as from healthcare professionals. Yet the resultant cascade of formulation challenges when upping fibre in a familiar or standard formulation can be compounded by consumer complaints related to numerous negative results in taste, texture and other organoleptic qualities—or worse, digestive comfort—as well as stability and shelf life changes. These negatives can be common occurrences that accompany many of the familiar fibres. 

The areas that have been hardest hit by the challenge of increasing fibre without affecting taste, texture or causing unpleasant side effects include cereal, bars and dairy. 

For bars and cereals, one challenge encountered was not necessarily to increase fibre content but improve a bar with existing fibre content. The manufacturer requested that the original formulation maintain its existing, effective amount of gluten-free fibre, but sought changes to improve taste issues. 

It had been difficult to increase fibre to required levels (to state a “good” or “excellent” source of fibre on the package), without adding extra calories, altering taste and texture or creating unwanted digestive side effects. It also was a challenge to increase fibre while maintaining a gluten-free label. 

In this case, there had been customer complaints about such digestive concerns in the original formula. It was easy to replace the inulin in the original bar formulation with partially hydrolysed guar gum (PHGG), thus making it possible to attain both objectives, while additionally having minimum cost impact for the client. 

Partially hydrolysed guar gum is becoming the go-to solution, as processed food formulations and culinologists seek ways to satisfy the increasing demand for fibre without harming brand or formula. 

Because of its low viscosity, PHGG (product of Sunfiber) doesn’t alter taste, texture or mouthfeel. It is stable in low pH environments and product developers and manufacturers are usually surprised to learn that the partially hydrolysed guar gum actually improves the final product, and delivers more benefits to consumers than other fibre types. 

Another advantage to using PHGG versus certain other fibres is that it also works well in high-protein bars and cereals and energy-performance products. This is because it doesn’t interfere with the utilization of proteins and mineral absorption. 

Another challenge in boosting fibre was to introduce more fibre into dairy products without altering the mouthfeel and pH environment. This happened especially with yogurt formulations. Most fibres end up degrading in low-pH conditions, thereby making them inappropriate for yogurt applications. 

One interesting development was that, when used alone or in combination with milk protein in yogurts, PHGG also provides satiation effects for many hours, making it an ideal snack for limiting intermittent appetite and helping to reduce the extra calorie intake.

PHGG is stable at low pH levels, making it an ideal fibre solution for yogurt. PHGG also offers stability of fibre content without interfering with the pH-sensitive probiotics in yogurt applications. Another interesting fibre involved a high-fibre ice cream. Concerns with crystallization make adding fibre to ice cream a concern. 

When an ice cream manufacturer requested an increase in the fibre in its product from 0.5g/100g to 7g/100g, the team was instructed to maintain the original formulation’s low-sugar and low calorie status. And, since ice cream is such an indulgent treat that relies on specific parameters of taste and texture, it was important to do this without altering those qualities. 

Here again, PHGG made for a ready solution. The consistency of PHGG enables it to dissolve clearly in liquid without altering texture or taste of a product. By simply replacing the existing fibre in the formulation (inulin) with PHGG, customer requirements were easily met, again without adding unwanted negative effects that some fibres might contribute at such levels. 

The demand from consumers for tasty, low-calorie, low-sugar snacks, sweeteners and chewing gum is high. However, many artificial sweeteners and natural sweeteners, such as stevia, have substantial aftertaste. Some consumers also have a difficult time digesting added fructose and non-nutritive sweeteners (e.g. certain polyols) that can cause uncomfortable digestive issues. 

Reformulation with PHGG proved in these cases to effectively reduce the negative aftertaste that is often present when using sweetener alternatives, while improving mouthfeel of the finished product. 

Beverages turned out to be surprisingly accepting formats for boosting fibre with partially hydrolysed guar gum. One beverage manufacturer had an issue with bitterness and negative afternotes of a stevia-sweetened beverage. In this case, the helped to mask those bitter after notes—and still maintained the “low calorie” and “all-natural” status of the formula Adding PHGG allowed the development of a product that was able to maintain a sweet, clean flavour, while satisfying the request for an all-natural, low-sugar and low-calorie drink with high fibre content.