Bridging the fibre gap: A collaborative approach to healthier diets
14 June 2023
Fibre is a vital nutrient. Most people know it helps maintain a healthy digestive system, but less are aware it also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancer. Which is why it is disappointing that in the UK, only 9% of adults meet the recommended dietary intake.
In 2015, the Government increased the dietary recommendation for fibre from 24g to 30g per day. But with a lack of government supporting policies or public awareness campaigns to bring this front of mind, it’s unsurprising we haven’t seen a real change in the population’s fibre intake over the last decade.
There’s no doubt achieving the recommended 30g per day is a challenge. The British Nutrition Foundation showed that even if people consume the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables, and three portions of starchy foods each day, they will still only consume about two-thirds of the amount. So, what can be done to help consumers bridge the fibre gap?
In late 2021, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) which represents the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, worked with 25 household brands who stepped up to spearhead efforts to increase fibre consumption in the UK.
Our Action on Fibre initiative has made amazing progress in that time, delivering an additional 7.2 billion servings of fibre to the UK population. That’s equivalent to around 5.5 billion bowls of bran flakes or 7.8 billion slices of wholemeal bread. According to data from Kantar Worldpanel this has meant a 2 per cent increase in the fibre content of products purchased by consumers from participating brands.
These companies have developed higher fibre options across a variety of categories, from breakfast cereals to main meals, snacks to frozen veg – all to support people in making higher fibre choices throughout the day. Reformulating and developing new products is challenging. It demands time, technical expertise and investment to strike the right balance, ensuring flavours and eating experience remain uncompromised.
But it’s not just ingredients that have changed, the nation’s favourite brands are also bridging the gap in many other ways. Redesigning packaging to make higher fibre claims stand out, sharing exciting and tasty fibre recipe ideas, encouraging staff to increase their fibre intake and working with academics to broaden research into fibre.
With the FDF's Action on Fibre initiative leading the way, we have seen great progress. However, to truly bridge the fibre gap in the UK and improve the health of our nation, it requires a collective effort and collaboration between manufacturers, government bodies, healthcare professionals and consumers alike.
For our part, we will continue to encourage more industry members to sign up to take Action on Fibre and support them to develop innovative strategies. But we need government and public health charities to step forward to help increase the public awareness of fibre, to educate and empower individuals to increase their fibre intake. If we get this right it will benefit not just us, but generations to come.
Fiyin Makinwa is the senior diet & health executive at the Food and Drink Federation