Processors Integrating More Fiber and Grains into Products

Consumers are catching on to the importance whole grains and fiber play. Fiber in particular, is going through two big regulatory changes as the definition of what qualifies as fiber and an increase in its recommended daily value.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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beyondburger packageConsumers know they need more grains and fiber. That's the conclusion of a February study noted by the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF; www.grainfoodsfoundation.org), Washington. We all could increase our nutrient intake, especially children, which are considered deficient in several key nutrients, by adding more grain-based foods, the study revealed. Though whole-grain consumption is up for adults, kids are still lagging behind where they should be where nutrients from grains are concerned.

Certain grain foods such as fiber, and dietary folate, iron, B vitamins and vitamin A are critical to the nutrient intake of children, says a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients (www.mdpi.com/journal/nutrients). The researchers point out that grain foods contribute a variety of essential nutrients. The findings correlate with conclusions in the updated Dietary Guidelines, which state most American kids just don't consume enough of these nutrients.

Therefore, opportunities abound for childrens' products incorporating fiber and whole grains. Dyan Hes, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City, says "Not meeting nutrient recommendations can stall childhood development, ranging from stunting growth to cognitive delays. Ensuring children consume adequate amounts of essential nutrients will facilitate success in the classroom as well as happy and healthy development."

The findings also underscore the importance of nutrient density of both whole and enriched grain food products, including breads, rolls, tortillas and ready-to-eat cereals, says the GFF's executive director Christine Cochran. "Shoppers often look for fiber and whole grains in tandem," she says. "The Food Marketing Institute's 2015 US Grocery Shopper Trends Report says shoppers seeking foods high in fiber (35 percent) also tend to seek foods high in whole grains (41 percent). The importance of fiber in the diet is well-substantiated, though we continue to learn more about the unique role cereal fiber plays in the gut microbiome."

Also among the GFF research's findings: Ready-to-eat cereals, breads, rolls and tortillas can contribute more nutrients (thiamin, folate, fiber, iron and niacin) to children's and adolescents' diets than any other grain category.

Different grains, different nutrients

The whole grain category has grown considerably, set to hit $27.8 billion globally this year, according to findings from Global Industry Analysts (www.strategyr.com). However, different grains provide different nutrients, Cochran points out. "While wheat is a good source of manganese, quinoa adds phosphorus, and barley adds molybdenum to the diet [molybdenum is a trace dietary element]. It's important to consume a wide variety to ensure we’re receiving a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals."

MunkPack OatmealSqueezesOatmeal is the base of all Fruit Squeeze products by Munk Pack (www.munkpack.com), a Connecticut-based company that showcased the 4.2-oz. portable pouches in five flavors at March's Natural Products Expo West. In addition to oatmeal and the featured fruit, Fruit Squeezes contain quinoa, cinnamon, flax and chia seeds for heartiness. Each pouch contains 3-4g of fiber. "Oatmeal is recognized as a healthy source of fiber, protein and carbohydrate," explains company co-founder Michelle Glienke. "We're experiencing major growth in high fiber snacks. Whole grains will continue to be in high demand, especially as demand grows for products that support healthy digestion."

Grains are being added to entrees and salad kits, like Nourish Bowls from produce supplier Mann Packing Co. (www.nourishbowls.com), Salinas, Calif. Loaded with squash, kohlrabi, kale, cauliflower and other veggies, the convenient bowls include brown rice, fibrous black beans and chickpeas and a tasty sauce that all combine for a microwave-ready meal in minutes. Nourish Bowls come in four varieties: Sesame Sriracha, Smokehouse Brussels, Southwest Chipotle and Monterey.

'Planet-friendly' grain

General Mills is researching a "planet-friendly," organic, perennial grain called kernza (intermediate wheatgrass), which it says tastes sweet and nutty and is suitable as an ingredient for cereal and snacks. The company has approved a $500,000 charitable contribution to support research on kernza, which shows promise in providing benefits to soil health, carbon sequestration, water retention and wildlife habitats. Cascadian Farm, which is owned by General Mills, agreed to buy an initial amount of kernza to eventually incorporate into its cereals and snacks.

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