Leading US bakery Sara Lee is banking on renewed interest in wholegrains as it introduces a new range of breads to carbohydrate-conscious consumers.
New US Dietary Guidelines to be unveiled this year should support the merits of wholegrains, says the firm, and bring growth to the bakery sector that has suffered from the onslaught of low-carb diets.
The dietary guidelines advisory committee recommended in its reportto the government in August that half of Americans' daily grain servings should come from wholegrain foods, with a minimum of three one-ounce servings a day.
The new guidelines are expected to be released in January.
Wholegrain consumption has been linked to decreased risk for heart disease, stroke, some cancers and type-2 diabetes. Whole grains are also thought to help with weight control.
A recent survey carried out by the Naples, New York database company Productscan Online suggested that fiber-enriched products could be the next big thing to hit the US health food market after the low-carb fad.
Productscan Online said that the percentage of new food and beverage products making high fiber claims in North America has been stuck at around 2.5 percent for the past four years, but this increased to 4.2 percent in 2004.
"The percentage of products being marketed as fiber-enriched has increased from 2.3 percent in 2000, 2.5 percent in 2001, 2.8 percent in 2002, 3 percent in 2003, to 4.2 percent this year," Tom Vierhile, the executive editor of Productscan Online told NutraIngredientsUSA last year. "Four years of consective growth is pretty good evidence of a trend."
He also believes that the dietary guidelines for 2005, which influence the food pyramid, could help promote increased fiber intake although he noted that some of the growth in high-fiber products could be down to companies cashing in on the low carb diet trend, such as the Atkins and South Beach, which encourage followers to up their fiber intake.
Companies already at the forefront of this trend include ConAgra, which launched a new whole-grain flour - Ultragrain White Whole Wheat - in the second half of 2004.
Sara Lee claims that it has already more than doubled thenumber of wholegrain bread and bagels it sells under the Sara Lee brand in the last six months after launching a range of new products.
Its new Heart Healthy Plus wholegrain breads are said to contain twice the fiber and calcium of typical wheat breads and are also fortified with vitamin D and folic acid.
The group has also launched a website to educate consumers about the health benefits of bread.
The food categories most likely to benefit from a move towards fiber-enriched products are those hardest hit by the low-carb trend, such as breakfast cereals, breads and pastas.