Putting health first with chicory root fibres

Chicory root fibres provide an added prebiotic boost without major alterations to the production process

By Christian Philippsen, managing director of BENEO, Asia-Pacific

When it comes to our food and drink choices, consumers often take into consideration a myriad of factors, from price to health benefits, convenience to taste.

However, figures from Mintel show that when it comes to defining the value of food and drink products, consumers rank health benefits and natural ingredients higher than a lower price — an interesting finding given the rampant cost-of-living crisis faced globally. Also, according to a new global consumer survey by One Inch Whale on behalf of BENEO, one in four consumers can be categorised as putting health first when buying food and drink products. This consumer group is even larger in Indonesia, with almost half of the population (45%) prioritising health — the highest share among countries surveyed around the world.

One key area that food and drink manufacturers can address in their product development is digestive health, particularly as consumers recognise its impact on various other health areas. Globally, a large proportion of consumers understands that digestive health influences physical wellbeing (79%) and the immune system (75%).

Supporting health with the help of prebiotics

In order to boost our overall health, we must support the good bacteria in our bodies that provide benefits to the human organism. In fact, more than half of consumers (57%) in Asia Pacific are very or extremely interested in the gut microbiome. To support a healthy gut, manufacturers and consumers can look towards prebiotics. According to the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP), a prebiotic is “a substrate that is selectively utilised by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit”. Prebiotics help the good bacteria which are already naturally present in the body to grow. As a matter of fact, 70% of consumers in Thailand that were surveyed associated prebiotics with being healthy – the highest score compared to other countries in the survey.

There are only very few prebiotics which are scientifically and clinically proven to be classified as such. BENEO’s chicory root fibres, Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose, belong to this group of proven prebiotics, complying with the ISAPP definition. In fact, a recently published systematic literature review with meta-analyses explored the effects of inulin-type fructans derived from chicory root, based on 50 human intervention studies. The findings revealed that chicory root fibre intake (starting at 3g/day) promotes growth of beneficial Bifidobacteria in the gut microbiome in all age groups and improves bowel function parameters. Other benefits provided by chicory root fibres relate to blood sugar management, immune health, weight management, and calcium absorption for bone health.

Improving nutritional profiles with chicory root fibres

Given the myriad of health benefits, it is no surprise the future of prebiotic-enriched products with chicory root fibres looks strong. In the Asia Pacific region, the prebiotics market size is anticipated to reach US$4.9bn by 2028, with two in three consumers (68%) reporting that they are interested in prebiotics. Looking at the expectations of those who already buy foods or drinks containing prebiotics, a recent global FMCG Gurus survey revealed that for three out of four, product efficacy, health claims, and science-based claims are significant purchasing determinants. This highlights the need for manufacturers to choose scientifically proven prebiotic ingredients such as chicory root fibres.

Even in terms of technical properties, BENEO’s Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose are proving popular with producers, as they are soluble dietary fibres that can be added to recipe formulations without major changes to the production process. Also, they have a mild taste and do not add an unwanted aftertaste to the end product.

Apart from increasing the fibre content, chicory root fibres also allow to reduce fat or sugar in food formulations, thereby improving the nutritional profile. For example, Orafti Inulin and Oligofructose can reduce the sugar content in cookies, while maintaining the desired taste and texture of the product. In addition, Orafti Inulin’s long chain molecular structure offers fat-mimetic texturizing properties and can be used to replace part of the fat content in dairy products like yogurt or ice cream. At the same time, it provides a creamy mouthfeel.

With health being a top priority for many consumers, this further drives the demand for food and drinks with added health benefits. Food manufacturers can leap at the opportunity to develop tasty and nutritional foods with the help of functional ingredients such as prebiotic chicory root fibres.

* References available on request