FODMAP-friendly diets – or diets low in fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols (say that five time fast!) – have emerged, signaling a warning for certain functional fibers (such as inulin) that are popular in snack/cereal/energy bars. In fact, research from Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that the high/added fiber claim has sharply declined among snack/cereal/energy bar products launched globally in the past five years. In 2011, a quarter of global snack/cereal/energy bars made a high fiber/added fiber claim, dropping to only 14% of  in 2015. Over that same span, the penetration of functional fiber ingredients declined 12%.

Overall, penetration of inulin declined 46% in global snack/cereal/energy bar product launches with a high/added fiber claim between 2011-2015 despite being the top functional fiber ingredient typically used in these products. This is worrisome, as the sub-category outpaced all food and drink products launched with inulin over the past five years.

Concerns over FODMAPs

Inulin is classified as a fructan. By definition, fructans are oligosaccharides or polysaccharides of short chains of fructose units with a terminal glucose molecule. Fructans are part of larger group molecules – FODMAPs – that could be responsible for digestive discomfort in sensitive individuals.

In sensitive individuals, FODMAP molecules can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms similar to those caused by a gluten intolerance. The recent emergence of FODMAP-friendly diets could lead to poor consumer perception of inulin, especially if its impact on digestive health is questioned.

Even though only a small percentage of individuals may be sensitive to FODMAPs, ingredients associated with gastrointestinal issues can be quickly abandoned by consumers looking out for their health, as seen with the gluten-free diet’s rapid popularity. Gluten-free diets certainly have not been limited to those diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. As seen in Mintel’s Gluten-free Foods US 2015 report, Americans consuming – and interested in trying – gluten-free foods increased each of the past three years.

The next free-from diet

The rising popularity of FODMAP-friendly diets presents the opportunity for manufacturers of low-FODMAP products to clearly communicate more than simply the amount of FODMAPs per serving; they should also push messaging on why limited FODMAP intake may be beneficial for FODMAP sensitive consumers.

As FODMAP-friendly diets emerge, much like gluten-free diets, consumers may display confusion over which ingredients and products they should and shouldn’t eat. Manufacturers that include information on pack will alleviate concerns from consumers with diagnosed FODMAP sensitivities, but further communication and education to consumers could lead to a FODMAP-friendly movement similar to what we’ve seen with gluten-free products.

Stephanie Mattucci is a Global Food Science Analyst at Mintel. Prior to Mintel, Stephanie worked as a Food Scientist in R&D for an ingredients company in Chicago, where she specialized in seasoning product development and provided technical expertise to customers in the food industry.

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