“The study took place in a unique real-life setting”
For J. Rettenmaier & Söhne (JRS), developing dietary fibre that adds health value to food products has become a key business. In 2017 the multinational, based in Rosenberg (Germany), asked Wageningen Food & Biobased Research to investigate the effects of extrinsic wheat fibre on different parameters of gastrointestinal health, when incorporated in convenience products like meat balls, soup and pizza. “We are now better prepared to support our customers in implementing product reformulations with added health value”, says Anne Fisher, Head of Global Nutrition.
“Our company has specialized in the development and processing of high-quality fibres for the industry. Derived from fruit, vegetable and cereal raw materials, adding health value via dietary fibre is an important growth market for us. For many years JRS has focussed on a particular aspect of food technology, enriching food products with dietary fibre without negatively impacting taste and texture. We also started to look deeper into the health effects associated with dietary fibre, and that is why we turned to a leading authority in the field.
We already knew, via our Dutch sales office, that Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is an institute with a long history of excellence in the characterization of dietary fibre. They are skilled in creating experiments and intervention studies in ‘real life’ settings such as a restaurant or cafeteria. This, together with an inspiring presentation by their fibre expert Jurriaan Mes at a FibeBiotics conference in 2016, turned a difficult decision into a simple one - to begin a research collaboration with them.
Different food matrices
Already, in 2000 and 2002, Prof. Feldheim from the Kiel University had conducted three open intervention trials with more than 50 participants, showing an improvement in bowel movement. Wageningen experts have now investigated how our product VITACEL Wheat Fibre – which our customers can incorporate into different food matrices, in different ways – affects bowel movement. Does it, for example, improve stool composition, stool frequency or increase faecal bulk? We incorporated VITACEL into a wide range of foods, including bakery products, meatballs, pizza, soup and Leberkäse (a typical German meatloaf). Wageningen experts tested these in a double-blind, placebo-controlled human intervention study. Participants received meal boxes containing fibre-enriched or control products with regular fibre levels for consumption at home.
The trial began mid-2017 and was completed early 2018, with very positive results. We found it relatively easy, technically, to incorporate VITACEL into the chosen foods, and participants did not notice they were eating products with added fibre. Moreover, the fibres could be added to different kind of foods and have the same effect, meaning that the matrix of the different products did not affect the outcome. Thus the positive health effects of the added wheat fibre were convincing; all participants reported improved faecal bulk.
We will use the research insights to better support our customers with their specific product-reformulation issues. Whereas one customer might want to increase fibre content, another might prioritise calorie reduction. Together with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, we intend to publish a scientific paper.
I look back on the collaboration very positively indeed. We all enjoyed working with such an open, flexible and knowledgeable team. And we would like to continue cooperating with them, for example in investigating fermentation and prebiotics, and the mechanisms behind the effect on improved insulin sensitivity. Dietary fibres are a hot topic in the food industry and there is still much to discover. We anticipate a fruitful and rewarding journey together with Wageningen Food & Biobased Research.”