How to define fiber, and precisely how much fiber a person needs, are all matters open for debate. But there is one statement about fiber with which virtually everyone agrees: Most Americans don’t get enough of it. And new data shows that they want more.
The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Institute for Medicine all advise adults to consume 14 grams of fiber per 1000/kcal consumed. This would result in 25–38 grams of dietary fiber per day, for a 2000/kcal diet. The average American’s daily intake is only 12–18 grams.
Americans may be falling woefully short in fiber intake, but the good news is, they know it. Product manufacturers don't need to invest tons of money convincing people they would do well to eat more fiber; they would do better to spend their money coming up with palatable high-fiber products consumers will want to eat.
According to a 2011 International Food Information Council survey of 1,000 people, 72 percent of North Americans reported that they were trying to consume more fiber.
According to a study by third-party research firm Illuminas and sponsored by Tate & Lyle, nearly 50 percent of Americans believe they need more fiber in their diets, and only 10 percent believe they get all the fiber they need.
"In our consumer research, we've consistently found that consumers read labels for fiber content in an effort to add more fiber to their diets," says David Lewis, director of health and wellness at Tate & Lyle. Among other products, Tate & Lyle markets Promitor, a corn-based soluble dietary fiber.
The survey found:
• 87 percent of respondents said it's important to get fiber into their diet.
• 81 percent said fiber is essential for their children's diets.
• 35 percent think they get "most" of what they need; 46 percent get "some" of what they need; 8 percent admit they get very little of what they need.
The survey asked 1,000 people to list their top health priorities. While heart-health came in first (with 69 percent calling it "very important" and a weighted score of 89) "managing healthy digestion" came in fifth out of nine responses (with 49 percent rating it “very important” and an overall score of 85). Interestingly, healthy digestion got the most "second-place" votes, with 37 percent of those surveyed rating digestive health "quite important."
Fiber came in second among ingredients consumers say they need more of, with 47 percent looking for that ingredient (behind fruits and vegetables with 65 percent). Prebiotics garnered another 8 percent of votes.
The survey concluded consumers have a fairly good understanding of fiber's benefits, with 79 percent saying it maintains healthy digestion, 65 percent agreeing that it supports good health generally and 56 percent knowing it protects against intestinal illnesses.
Other responses included "helps to manage weight," "helps you feel fuller longer" and "helps growth of live cultures." 26 percent understood fiber improves absorption of calcium.
According to the survey, consumers are most likely to up their fiber intake by:
● Including more fruits and vegetables in their diet (61 percent).
● Eating more whole grains (60 percent).
● Buying "fiber products" (44 percent).
● Looking at labels for fiber content (37 percent).
● Shopping for foods with fiber claims (29 percent).
● Taking a fiber supplement (23 percent).
● Adding probiotics to their diet (12 percent).
● Adding prebiotics to their diet (4 percent).
The survey also revealed some good news for food manufacturers. Consumers indicated a willingness to pay a premium for fiber-enriched products across several food categories.
● 13 percent said they were "very likely" to pay more for cold breakfast cereals, cereal bars and bread/rolls/muffins with added fiber.
● 30 percent said they "may" pay more in all of those categories.
● 12 percent said they would pay a premium for fiber-enriched products in hot breakfast cereals and bagels.
Want to learn more about the state of dietary fiber in the American food industry? Check out the latest NBJ/Engredea monograph report.