Fiber-rich future: Capitalizing on the growing consumer demand for digestive health products – article

Multiple fiber solutions for varied applications can satisfy a wide range of consumer needs for convenient, clean label products that support digestive health management.

May 1, 2024

7 Min Read
Fiber-rich future: Capitalizing on the growing consumer demand for digestive health products

Personal wellness reached a crossroads in 2020 due to the pandemic, and many consumers made a hard turn into taking back control of their own health. Four years later, the pandemic has receded, but consumer interest in fostering healthier habits remains at the forefront of their shopping goals. When it comes to buying food and beverages, consumers want their products to do more than simply fill a craving.

In a 2021 global survey conducted by Innova Market Insights, more than 80% of consumers said that healthy food choices are important in maintaining their health. Going a step beyond the concept of health maintenance, overall healthy lifestyle choices are becoming the priority. A follow-up survey by Innova in 2022 found that 45% of consumers believe “eating a healthy and nutritious diet” is the best way to achieve their healthy lifestyle objectives. Note the growth in product introductions with digestive claims in the chart below.


Not surprisingly, improving digestive health has emerged as the most desirable health function claim for food and beverage products after immunity, according to the 2022 Innova survey.

“This particular study also found that high demand for these benefits is outpacing current purchase levels, highlighting that there is an opportunity for further growth in this area,” said Vanessa Bailey, senior manager of global strategy & innovation and healthful solutions at Ingredion, a leading global ingredient solutions company that specializes in sweeteners, starches and nutrition ingredients for food and beverage applications.

Research and Markets analysis firm predicts that the global dietary fiber market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.28% from 2023 to 2028, driven by increasing demand for functional gut health products. Primary factors for increased global fiber consumption include price, health, food safety and nutrient content.1


Significant opportunity to drive product preference with optimal health benefits

More than 90% of consumers do not enjoy the full benefits of a fiber-rich diet because most processed and refined foods making up the busy modern lifestyle are low in fiber content.2 Yet consumers are hungry for convenient ways to fit more gut-healthy ingredients like fiber into their daily routine.

Ingredion’s proprietary ATLAS consumer research survey in 2023 revealed that 39% of consumers now prioritize “gut health” as one of the top three crucial factors they consider when making food and beverage decisions, up 6% from just three years ago. Ingredion also found that more than 43% of consumers actively check product labels for beneficial ingredients like added fiber, and 75% of them are willing to pay more for a product with health claims such as improved digestive health.

“It’s also worth mentioning that the rise of plant-based diets and the desire for clean label products have contributed to the demand for fiber-rich food and beverages,” Bailey noted.

Close the gap in fiber with a range of carbohydrates

The team at Ingredion believes that fiber ingredients are strategically positioned to address that gap — both in the market and as a regular part of most people’s daily diets. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends adults consume 28 grams of dietary fiber per day; however, the average intake for U.S. adults ages 20 years and older is just 16.9 grams per day. This 40% gap in recommended intake has profound impacts on consumer health. Lack of fiber is associated with many gut health problems and chronic conditions,3 with 40% of the global population estimated to suffer from some type of gastrointestinal challenge.4 Incremental increases in dietary fiber added into daily consumption could have profound public health impacts.

Conversely, fiber-rich diets are associated with many benefits, including improved digestion, weight management and improved blood glucose management.5 While everyone agrees that fiber is good for you, many consumers — and even some brands and manufacturers — still struggle to understand exactly what qualifies as dietary fiber.

But for those brands that understand both the health needs and the business opportunity, developing formulations with added fiber is a winning strategy that provides the most in-demand health benefits, makes good on product claims and positions the product as a premium option. Providing context related to diet’s impact on digestive health is crucial and providing more consumer education can help define product development priorities and impact consumer purchasing priorities.

Part of this education may require communication strategies that help consumers understand the benefits of varied fiber sources and forms. Many consumers may understand that dietary fibers are defined as nondigestible soluble and insoluble carbohydrates that can confer digestive health benefits, but most may not necessarily associate specific fibers with specific benefits. As an example, consumers may not know that gum acacia and inulin are isolated carbs that support gut microflora; or that fructooligosaccaride (FOS) and resistant starch type 4 are synthetic carbohydrates with specific attributes that also include gut microbiome benefits. These types of considerations provide a framework for assessing and promoting digestive well-being, inform research and aid in creating consumer value, which can then drive business growth for food and beverage manufacturers.


“Various types of fibers can target specific health concerns,” noted Junrui Cheng, Ph.D., a senior nutrition scientist at Ingredion, and “a diet high in dietary fibers and prebiotics can support a healthy gut in many ways.” It is well-recognized that a good microbiome is composed of balanced microbiota with good diversity. In addition, consuming a diverse range of fibers and prebiotics encourages dietary variety and enjoyment, making it easier to adhere to a healthy eating pattern in the long term. Ingredion has a range of fiber solutions that can be used by food and beverage manufacturers to provide digestive health benefits in many different applications, including yogurts, baked goods, beverages, bars, snacks and more.

Because of its versatility, fiber works across many formats and can enhance digestive health by increasing beneficial gut bacteria, reducing sugar and improving taste and texture. For example, Ingredion’s NUTRAFLORA® P-95 soluble prebiotic, produced from non-GMO sucrose (cane sugar), has a similar profile to sugar but with fewer calories.


While bakery and cereals account for 40% of fiber claims, fiber-enriched yogurts and smoothies are becoming more common. Snack products, such as fiber-rich bars and chips, are also on the rise. And fiber-infused juices and functional waters are becoming popular options as well.6

“As consumers are becoming more aware of the importance of fiber and are looking for more functional products, we see fiber claims expanding in nontraditional subcategories such as carbonated beverages, deli substitutes, chocolate and instant noodles,” Bailey said. “This really demonstrates how consumers are seeking nutrient-positive benefits in formats that are convenient, taste great and feel indulgent.”

“The gut health or digestive health claim is still very popular, but we see an increase in brands taking it one step further and making prebiotic claims,” Bailey said. Some fibers do double duty as prebiotics, which are generally defined as a “substrate that is selectively utilized by host microorganisms conferring a health benefit” notes Cheng.

The prebiotic effect on food and beverage isn’t just anecdotal. Innova reported a 14.2% CAGR in new food and beverages with prebiotic claims introduced between 2018 and 2022 versus just a 3.1% CAGR for total food and beverage launched during that period.7

It’s clear that fiber provides the digestive and gut microbiome health benefits that consumers desire while creating new opportunities for brands to deliver premium products with benefits that are likely to generate customer retention. In today’s market, the wide variety of fiber ingredients allows brands to seamlessly incorporate added fiber into multiple product designs – meeting consumer demand while enhancing brand bottom line.

1. Research and Markets Global Dietary Fiber Market (2023 Edition);

2. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020.

3. Barber, TM et al. “The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre.” Nutrients. 2020 Oct 21;12(10):3209.

4. Sperber, AD et al. “Worldwide Prevalence and Burden of Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Results of Rome Foundation Global Study.” Gastroenterology. 2021 Jan;160(1):99-114.e3.

5. Barber, TM et al. “The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre.” Nutrients. 2020 Oct 21;12(10):3209.

6. Innova. Established and Emerging Fiber in Food and Beverage.

7. Innova. The Future of Gut Health: Exploring the Future of Biotics Ingredients on a Global Scale 2023.

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