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Breakfast Cereals, Innovation And The Dietary Fiber Crisis

Tue, 04/12/2011 - 9:38am
Steven J. Leusner, Fields of Gold Consulting LLC

It’s no secret to most that our diets are sadly lacking in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. While movement toward “whole grains” in ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals and other grain-based foods is long overdue and excellent for health, it has not dented the huge need for more fiber. Most Americans are getting less than one-half their daily dose of needed fiber. Fiber content of food touches on just about all-major health issues, including obesity, diabetes, digestive diseases and heart disease. Google dietary fiber and all these issues will appear prominently. We know we need it – but why are we not getting it?

Breakfast Cereals and Fiber

Breakfast cereals are a prime vehicle for the delivery of important fiber to children and adults, but they are falling short compared to their potential. Most kid’s cereals contain 2 or 3 grams of fiber per serving (serving sizes vary) which is far short of what could be delivered. A cereal can legally be called a “good source” at 2.5 grams per serving and an “excellent” source at 5g per serving. Breakfast cereals are a perfect vehicle for fiber delivery that kids like and consume readily, but they are being underutilized. Not to mention, every gram of fiber added takes out a gram of carbohydrates and a gram of calories! Every gram of fiber therefore takes out 3.3 percent of calories based on a 30-gram serving size! So, at an “excellent” source level of 5 grams, calories are reduced by almost 17 percent. This is a huge lost opportunity to impact children’s health given today’s backdrop of an obesity epidemic. In addition, fiber is believed to perpetuate feelings of fullness or satiety while keeping blood glucose levels moderated.

Why So Little Fiber?

Fiber sources have exploded in the last 15 years from an ingredient standpoint. The fibers are all available, but why are they simply not added to cereals when all the bad “sugary cereal” press would turn to applause? The answer is because a number of bad things happen for cereal manufacturers when they try to add fiber to cereals. If fibers are added above a certain level to the grain portion of a cereal (50 to 80 percent of sugar coated cereals), the grain flavor starts to suffer. It simply does not develop for food chemistry reasons. Additionally, the “bowl life” of the cereal gets reduced and you are left with a bad tasting, soggy cereal. Not only that, but fibers are “consumed” during cooking, so more must be added and this drives up costs. Also, the better tasting the fiber, the more expensive it tends to be, so the need for fiber in cereals goes largely unfilled. There are some “high fiber” cereals in the market, but these barely appeal to adults, much less children.

Innovation

There is a way to develop high fiber kids cereals (and adult cereals) and get around the problems normally associated with fiber and its issues. The innovation began with the idea that 30 to 50 percent of a cereal’s weight is in its coating and therefore there’s no need to have fiber in the actual grain portion. This is not as easy as it sounds on the surface, but a clever technique was discovered in order to accomplish just that. The technique has published U.S. and international patents pending, so now it becomes an opportunity for licensing. It is now possible to use any fiber source and fortify any cereal base, be it puffed or flaked from grits! Levels of fiber added at 3 to 15 grams for a 30 g serving are now possible and they taste great due to no interference with grain flavor or bowl life. In fact, bowl life is significantly improved. Using this new technology, there are several other advantages, including reduced product drying times and no consumption of fiber, which saves significant money for manufacturers. The new process works on existing equipment and even grit-flaked products, previously un-fortifiable, are now able to be a good, excellent or beyond source of fiber. Additionally, other fortifying materials such as proteins are easily added to cereals using the technology. One concept would be a “weight loss” positioned product high in fiber and high in protein.

Is there development work needed?

Essentially, no. All the process development work has been completed using all types of fibers (soluble and insoluble) and cereal bases, so all that is needed is some fine-tuning on your particular system and you are set to advertise your new high fiber “better for you” cereals. The process is extremely robust and easy to operate. Interested parties can arrange for a free demonstration of the technology onsite at the Henry Otten Manufacturing facility in Philadelphia.

The Future of RTE Cereals

Just as in any field, the future belongs to those willing to change and adopt new strategies to best meet the needs of their consumers. With glaring headlines about sugar-laden cereals and obesity, there exists currently a huge opportunity to be the leader in the RTE cereal market via high fiber cereals. Breakfast cereals can go a long way toward improving the health of our children with fiber while still delivering on their promise of great taste. It is now possible.

Steve Leusner, a trained organic chemist, has spent his 30-year career working at General Foods, Kraft, General Mills, and a small private flavor company in Philadelphia. He founded Fields of Gold Consulting LLC in 2010 and now works with companies worldwide to develop optimized products, processes and flavors applying advanced statistical methods. Contact Steve at sjleusner@fieldsofgoldconsulting.com or (610) 742-2569.

The technology from this article was developed by and belongs to the Henry Otten Manufacturing Company. As the original technology inventor, Fields of Gold Consulting LLC has been retained as the exclusive worldwide agent for licensing and customer start up support. The technology is available for license currently with the actual U.S. and international patents expected to issue very shortly. More about the technology including the published applications can be found at www.fieldsofgoldconsulting.com.

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