Bakery & Snacks: Bringing prebiotics to the bakery and snack aisle

Check out our media mention in Bakery & Snacks

By Hannah Ackermann, Registered Dietitian & Corporate Communications Manager at Comet Bio

The pandemic has put an even greater emphasis on preventative health for consumers with a renewed focus on nutrition and gut health. Linkage Research & Consulting Inc. reports that 87% of Americans understand that there is a connection between digestion and health, and 70% say they are proactive about their digestive health. Gut health encompasses more than digestive health, with new research emerging on the microbiome’s role in immunity, metabolism, cognition, and mood.

The bakery and snack goods categories are in an excellent position to capitalize on the increased consumer interest in digestive health. Many of these products are already rich in dietary fiber and can be supplemented with prebiotic fiber to boost the microbiome.

Prebiotics’ role in gut health

Prebiotics and probiotics are easily confused but play distinct roles in maintaining good digestive health. The gut microbiome is home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are the good bacteria that fight off bad bacteria in the gut and help establish a healthy microbiome. Prebiotics are soluble fibers often found in grains, vegetables, and fruits. They are nondigestible, meaning human enzymes cannot break them down. As a result, prebiotics work symbiotically with probiotics, serving as food for the good bacteria and promoting their growth. Having a healthy balance of good versus bad bacteria can help protect against pathogens, benefit the immune system, and support overall health.

When creating snacks and baked goods with added digestive health benefits, probiotics can be difficult to incorporate due to the limited availability of heat-resistant strains. Prebiotic fibers offer formulation benefits for manufacturers and convenience for consumers. By incorporating prebiotic fiber into snacks and baked goods already a part of their daily routines, consumers can meet their gut health needs without adding a new supplement.

Addressing prebiotics’ tolerability & digestion concerns

Before including prebiotic fibers in bakery and snack formats, manufacturers must consider significant tolerability and formulation concerns. Many popular prebiotic fiber options require high inclusion levels to be effective. For example, 5 grams or more is needed of inulin, a commonly used prebiotic fiber sourced derived from chicory root. These higher inclusion rates render many prebiotic supplement, food, and beverage formats impractical. Many popular prebiotic fiber options are also oligosaccharides, a type of fiber that the popular low-FODMAP diet cautions individuals to avoid due to tolerability concerns, including bloating and GI distress.

Luckily for manufacturers, there are more prebiotic fiber options available than ever before to utilize. Novel prebiotic fibers from different fibers, including polysaccharides and resistant starches, are becoming increasingly available. These prebiotic fibers are tailored to offer functional benefits while being more versatile and easier to incorporate.

For example, Comet Bio’s Arrabina is an Arabinoxylan prebiotic fiber with clinically proven prebiotic and immunity benefits. According to clinical research, the fiber’s longer chain polysaccharide structure makes it better tolerated by the gut compared to oligosaccharides, even at high doses of 15 grams a day. Another significant advantage of Arrabina is its potency, allowing a front-of-pack prebiotic claim with only half the inclusion level of other prebiotics. Its lower inclusion level also enables manufacturers to incorporate Arrabina in their products without significant reformulation and for a better value.

Having more prebiotic fiber options also benefits consumers. Many probiotic strains exist, as well as many prebiotic dietary fibers—so gut health is not a one-size-fits-all formula. As such, some probiotics work better with specific prebiotics and vice versa. No one scientifically validated “super prebiotic” optimizes every strain of probiotic in the gut. A diverse diet of prebiotics is needed to optimize an array of probiotics within the gut.

What’s Next?

According to Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) data, the US digestive health market has nearly tripled in size within the last decade and is predicted to reach $5.7 billion by 2024. Prebiotic sales currently make up a small portion of the overall digestive health market size but show strong growth, having doubled every year since 2016 and surpassing $425 million in sales in 2020. In addition, awareness of prebiotics has grown to 81%, with 35% of supplement users taking prebiotics at some level, according to Ingredient Transparency Center (ITC) Insights’ 2020 Consumer Survey.

In the coming years, expect to see more bakery and snacks manufacturers incorporating a wider array of prebiotic fiber options to meet this growing gut health demand.