Enzymes are impacting the methods used to develop fiber in the nutrition space. NutritionInsight speaks to Philip Hellhammer Johannesen, global marketing manager, food platforms at Novozymes, who details how the use of a specific enzyme – saphera – is shifting the fiber space. He also shares insights into how consumer needs for transparency are shaping the future of fiber.
“The future of Novozymes will focus on the in-situ generation which focuses on incorporating the creation of fiber directly into a product through the use of enzymes, instead of producing fiber and then adding this to the product,” explains Johannesen.
However, he flags that both situations can co-exist. “This is where we come to our new solution called saphera fiber. For instance, saphera can be added to yogurt, and it breaks down the milk sugars.”
Therefore, he notes that the lactose is converted into glucose and galactose, creating a fiber.
“This is a ‘combo benefit’ as, on the one hand, you increase the fiber content in the product, and on the other hand, you decrease the natural milk sugars and have a final product that is a fiber-rich yogurt,” he continues.
At the same time, offering this option of in situ generations of fibers is a quite advanced technology to the dairy industry.
“Perhaps we could do something similar for other industries where you convert the sugars into a fiber, enabling them to differentiate claims instead of just adding fiber; having this dual claim could be quite interesting,” Johannesen affirms.
Enzymes in the fiber sector
The role of enzymes in the fiber sector is changing slightly. For a few years, the enzymes worked as a catalyst for improving either the yield or the extraction for fiber producers.
Enzymes are used to improve the processing of fiber products naturally, explains Johannesen.
“Novozymes has been sub supplying the industry and helping companies to improve their fiber products, then lately, we have started thinking more in line with what we call in-situ generation,” he adds.
The enzyme replaces “technology”
The technology used by Novozymes is the saphera enzyme itself. It is a specific enzyme class that was launched last year.
“Today, the lactase enzyme is widely used to break down the milk sugars to create lactose-free products. However, the saphera enzyme is a slightly altered version that creates fiber instead of just breaking down the lactose,” explains Johannesen.
The saphera enzyme is a “solution” to the market and is specifically designed for dairy products as it needs lactose to work.
“From an enzymes point of view, it is a well-fitted solution to help extract even more and create it naturally for those supplying fibers to the industry,” he says. “Enzymes are a very well-known technology for the dairy industry.”
Consumer fiber intake
Consumer fiber intake is on the low side compared to the 25 g suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO), adds Johannesen.
“We also saw in our consumer study that the combination of increased fiber and low sugar resonates quite well, with many consumers seeking more and more health benefits from the products they consume.”
This consumer resonation is mainly in the area of children’s yogurt. “We saw the claim ‘rich in fiber and low in sugar’ resonating quite well, compared to a lot of different claims presented for consumer studies in the US with approximately 2500 consumers,” details Johannesen.
The future of fiber will have a wider variety of fiber sources. Currently, a lot of fiber is inulin.
Additionally, consumers realize that different fibers provide various benefits, and they are now more informed of the health benefits associated with fiber.
Global consumer knowledge on fiber
The knowledge of “good fiber” across the world is at different levels as some regions are very well aware while it’s more unclear to the consumers in other regions. In contrast, other areas seem to be in the early stage of the awareness curve, Johannesen underscores.
This will result in an “explosion” of the categories, including fiber claims, he continues.
“For example, the fiber in yogurt is quite a common claim, but you could also envision fiber-enriched milk and fiber-enriched beverages.”
Ensuring ingredient traceability
For many food producers worldwide, more and more consumers are scrutinizing the labels. Producers want to know precisely what is in the product and where it is coming from, Johannesen states.
“When a company generates the fiber in-situ, the source would be milk, and the enzyme is the only addition,” he details. “Also, it will be quite interesting from a traceability point of view as companies would not have to wonder how to explain their ingredient source.”
The company can instead say that it used the natural raw material of milk and added an enzyme that converted the milk sugars into fibers.
“We expect that fiber is going to pick up in many more food products and across new categories as well. I think that’s going to be one of the innovative elements that food producers are going to incorporate into more products because of the ability to provide a more healthy product to the consumers and making sure that they catch up on the fiber intake,” he adds.
Additionally, there will be a more diverse fiber source, and lastly, the relationship between prebiotics and probiotics in fiber will be necessary.
“So understanding how the probiotics work together with the prebiotics and making sure that that link is well established. I think it’s still relatively early for many consumers, but with more product launches, this aspect will also get more attention,” Johannesen outlines.
Fiber sector innovations soar
Last month, industry experts flagged that technology, sustainability and functionality are at the forefront of the fiber sector.
Earlier this week, sister platform FoodIngredientsFirst explored the fiber scene in a Special Report, addressing how broader F&B trends are impacting the space. In general, suppliers say that the so-called “fiber gap” is not getting smaller.
FoodIngredientsFirst also recently reported on India’s first prebiotic granola breakfast cereal developed by FIt& Flex and features a prebiotic fiber to promote digestion and gut health.
Novozymes’ previously unveiled a new enzyme for high protein drinks designed to overcome taste issues such as bitterness.
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