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Functional drink brands in Asia-Pacific look to fiber to boost sales

2019-07-09 11:13 Tuesday


As food companies seek to further diversify their product range and appeal to health-conscious consumers, many drinks companies have launched their own functional brands which use fiber as a selling point.

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Not only is fiber often cited as an ingredient that promotes digestion and lowers cholesterol, but crucially it has been touted as an aid to weight loss, due to making the consumer feel fuller.

According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), bottled water launches featuring the “high or added fiber” claim grew by more than 200 percent in the last 12 months (from a small starting base) – and the Asia Pacific region accounted for the largest share of these initiatives.

Beverage giants such as The Coca-Cola Company have entered the marketplace recently; an example includes Chun Yue's Flavoured Fibre Water, which was launched in China in 2018. The same year, Coca-Cola also launched Sprite Fibre Plus and Coca-Cola Fibre Plus in the same country.

Coca-Cola Fibre Plus and Sprite Fibre Plus both contain 7.5 grams of fiber per half liter bottle, equivalent to just under a third of the recommended daily intake of dietary fiber for grownups.

The market performance for these nutrition-enhancing products has apparently been positive, with the sales of Sprite Fibre Plus reported at 10-million unit cases in the 5 months following launch.

Last month, in Australia, Coke also announced the launch of its latest functional dairy product, Nutriboost, which is a milk drink that is advertised as containing higher levels of protein, calcium, Vitamin D and fiber.

Coca-Cola Australia's marketing manager, Amruta Vaidya said the new range delivers on taste and provides the nourishing energy that parents are looking for, at any time of the day.

Vaidya reported: “The dairy category has evolved significantly as Australians are increasingly looking for ways to add nourishment to their diets.”

Across the ocean in the Philippines, bottled water producer Philippine Spring Water Resources launched in 2018 its Nature's Spring Fiber Water which contains purified water and wheat dextrin – a functional ingredient said to help maintain a healthy digestive system.

Meanwhile, in the UK, Tropicana's new juice range – Tropicana Whole Fruit – is set to hit convenience stores this month and is made using a pressing process which retains more fruit fiber in the final product.

Tropicana's new Whole Fruit portfolio is designed to help consumers increase their fiber intake and the amount of nutritional value they get from everyday soft drinks, reports stated.

Caroline Wilding, marketing manager for juices at brand owner PepsiCo UK, commented: “To create Whole Fruit, we used our expertise to craft a new pressing process which makes more of the whole fruit drinkable. We use everything but the pips and peel to retain fiber, which is a key nutrient lost during traditional juicing”.

Functional beverages have already become the part of today's healthy diet and lifestyle for many consumers but they continue to seek products that offer extra added benefits.

In Asia especially, there is plenty of opportunity for companies to tap into consumer interest in improving digestive health. Mintel research reveals that over 25% of Chinese consumers have digestive problems such as indigestion. In Indonesia, almost half of urban citizens look to functional food and drink to aid with digestion and improve their dietary structure.

In Malaysia, Fiberwater have launched their Blackcurrant Fiber Drink, which is high in fiber and free from sugar and fat. According to the manufacturer, fiber helps to sustain a healthy intestinal environment.

Fibre water brands in particular are targeting mealtime occasions. The marketing materials created for Chun Yue's Flavoured Fibre Water, for example, features a picture of a meal and the drink itself along with a tagline that enlightens consumers that they can eat without worrying about their waistlines, as long as they have the drink, implying that the product has fat absorption properties.

Indigestible dextrin, also found in Coca-Cola Plus which launched in Japan, is supposedly is said by some to suppress fat absorption and help moderate levels of triglycerides in the blood after eating. Coca-Cola Plus is approved as a Food for Specified Health Use (FOSHU) in Japan, meaning that it has official accreditation for its functional ingredients as approved by the government.

As such, fiber water can be positioned as a drink with satiety benefits for weight-watchers to help maintain a healthy waistline, portraying the product as a complimentary beverage to go along with a dinner or lunch.

Apart from the official government FOSHU accreditation in Japan, there are no food regulations in other parts of Asia Pacific that warrant an official health claim linking fiber consumption with fat absorption or weight management.

Nevertheless, fiber drinks can still stand to benefit from demand for food options that provide satiety and have a hunger-suppressing effect. These attributes are typically provided by fiber. In fact, Mintel research shows that Indonesians and Thais already use functional food and drinks to keep them fuller for longer.

Worldwide, consumers want to make sure they are getting enough fiber in their diets. In China, over a third of parents are interested in food and drink that carry a ‘rich in dietary fiber' claim when they are choosing what to give their little ‘uns. In this light, opportunities exist for brands to pay attention to the possibly lucrative “high or added fiber” claim.

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