At the Institute of Food Technologists Wellness 10 seminar last month, several presenters noted a general theme in the food and beverage industry: Consumers are paying more attention to the health properties of the products they purchase, but many consumers don’t understand the specific benefits of certain ingredients.

It seems consumers have become more aware of ingredients, such as probiotics, fiber and protein. But many are unaware that the scientifically proven benefits they’ve heard about might only be found in a specific type or strain of the ingredient.

At a fiber-focused session hosted by Mintel International Group, Chicago, and Tate & Lyle, Decatur, Ill., an audience member mentioned a phenomenon happening on the other side of the world. In Australia, organizations placed a greater emphasis on fiber intake for its citizens. Now  Australians reportedly outpace Americans, Latin Americans and Europeans in their fiber intake, but the country has yet to observe a distinct health benefit, such as improved heart health or a decline in colon cancer rates.

The panel noted that in the United States fiber is just a general ingredient to consumers. They’ve only recently come to understand they need to eat more fiber and subsequently been able to identify good sources of fiber, but they don’t yet know the difference between and the benefits of the many types fiber, the panel stated.

The challenge remains as to where the responsibility to educate lies — with manufacturers to communicate the benefits of specific ingredients, with the consumer to expand their knowledge of the vast world of nutrition or somewhere in between?

Related Links:
March 2010 Beverage R&D: Awareness, versatility expand use of probiotics and prebiotics
Jan. 2010 Beverage R&D: 2010 New Product Development Survey