Formulating Low FODMAP Packaged Foods for Consumers With IBS
It can be challenging for consumers to find packaged foods that are suitable for a low-FODMAP diet. As the diet grows more popular, Food and Beverage companies can develop low-FODMAP alternatives to people’s favorite products. Image Credit: Flickr user U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food and Beverage companies have long faced tough decisions about whether or not to cater their products to specialty diets. After all, many popular weight loss and clean eating diets prove to be short-lived fads, not worth investing in. One diet, however, looks like it is here to stay: the low FODMAPs diet.
This diet is a science-based strategy for the management of symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), developed by scientists at Monash University in Australia and shown to improve symptoms in up to 86% percent of patients.1 It limits the patient’s consumption of Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, And Polyols (hence, the acronym “FODMAPs”), which are short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and are instead fermented by bacteria in the gut, leading to the production of gas that can trigger gastrointestinal symptoms.2
So, how does the growing popularity of the diet offer a market opening for Food and Beverage companies? Well, the problem for patients is that many of the most common ingredients in packaged foods are classified as FODMAPs: dried onions and garlic powder in microwave meals, sweeteners like honey and high fructose corn syrup, wheat-containing crackers and cereals, and many fruit juices and dairy products. Since patients can only tolerate low levels of the sugars in these foods, they are usually forced to prepare all of their meals themselves—a major inconvenience. Food and Beverage companies have the opportunity to develop new products that comply with the guidelines of the low-FODMAP diet in order to appeal to this growing consumer niche.
Developing Low-FODMAP Alternatives to Existing Products
Although the low-FODMAP diet has been shown to reduce gastrointestinal symptoms, it is still extremely hard for patients to follow. Not only do they have to give up some of their favorite snacks and drinks, which are often sweetened with fructose or sorbitol, but they can no longer eat conveniently packaged entrees and side dishes, which almost universally contain dairy, garlic powder or high-FODMAP grains. Even some of the most popular dairy alternatives, such as soy-based yogurt and cheese, aren’t suitable for patients on the diet.3 In order to appeal to these consumers, Food and Beverage companies can use modern software to develop new versions of some of their most popular packaged products so that they have lower levels of FODMAPs. At the same time, these products can also offer convenient options for consumers who follow diets that are similar to FODMAPs. For instance, strict vegans will be grateful for a wider variety of dairy-free packaged food options, and people who have chosen to go gluten-free can opt for quick, wheat-free snacks and microwave meals. This puts Food and Beverage companies in the unique position of being able to serve multiple markets with one product.
There are lots of changes that food and beverage companies can make to lower the FODMAP content of their products. For instance, the wheat flour in a frozen pizza crust might be replaced with quinoa flour, and a cereal might be sweetened with brown rice syrup instead of honey or high fructose corn syrup. That way, patients can manage their GI symptoms without having to prepare all of their meals and snacks themselves. Scientists may also be able to develop low-FODMAP versions of staple products, like bread and cheese. Recently, a team of researchers altered the FODMAP content of rye bread in order to produce a product that is suitable for IBS and IBD patients.4 It is also possible to develop lactose-free dairy product formulations.
In order to optimize formulations, researchers need to be able to fine tune ingredient combinations and concentrations so that these products are as similar as possible to the original versions. In the past, that typically required endless experimental batches, which was both time-consuming and costly—if scientists wanted to adjust the amount of water, flour or baking soda in an alternative bread formulation by even a tiny amount, they had to start an entirely new batch. However, with modern software, scientist can generate computer models of new formulations and tweak new recipes while minimizing the number of bench tests. That way, when it’s time to test the first real batch, scientists won’t have to make as many adjustments before they land on a formulation that has a flavor and texture that is practically indistinguishable from the original product. Not only does this process generate less material waste, but it also speeds development so that the new product can hit store shelves sooner.
Boosting the Nutritional Content of Low-FODMAP Formulations
One of the major challenges for patients on the low FODMAP diet is reducing FODMAPs while still getting all the right nutrients, since many symptom-triggering foods are high in important vitamins and minerals. To help patients who have trouble getting all of the necessary nutrients while on the low-FODMAP diet, Food and Beverage companies can fortify some of their products with nutrients that dieters might be lacking, such as iron, calcium, fiber and B vitamins. Because many of these nutrients are already incorporated into existing formulations, researchers can benefit from data collected when the original products were being developed. Instead of designing an entirely new set of tests to determine which ingredients to use and how much must be included in a particular formulation, scientists can draw on their previous findings and build any new tests around past successes and failures. Modern formulations software makes it easy to access previous old data, even if it was collected years before, so researchers can employ similar strategies wherever possible when boosting the nutritional content of low-FODMAP formulations.
Rapid Adaptation to FODMAP Updates
Because not all foods have been tested for FODMAPs, scientists at Monash University regularly conduct tests and update the list of foods that are suitable for a low-FODMAP diet. If an ingredient in an existing formulation is found to be high in FODMAPs, food scientists may need to quickly redevelop the formulation in order to eliminate and replace the original ingredient. Previous experiments can be extremely helpful when reformulating a product, since the results can provide insight into what will and won’t work in the formulation. With modern formulations software, scientists can quickly locate relevant data that they can use to rewrite the ingredient list. The technology also streamlines the overall testing and approval process so that the new, low-FODMAP formulation can be returned to store shelves as quickly as possible.
BIOVIA Formulations in CPG Industries software can help researchers at Food and Beverage companies design and test low-FODMAP formulations that allow dieters to continue to enjoy some of their favorite foods without triggering GI symptoms. By making it easy to access previous data, the software also increases research efficiency so that your company can get new products to market as quickly as possible. Contact us today to learn more about our software solutions.
- “Follow-up of patients with functional bowel symptoms treated with a low FODMAP diet,” April 21, 2016, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27099444 ↩
- “Low FODMAP Diet,” 2016, http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/low-fodmap-diet ↩
- “FODMAPS and Soy: Why So Confusing?” May 18, 2014, http://www.ibsfree.net/news/2014/5/18/fodmaps-and-soy-why-so-confusing ↩
- “Modified Rye Bread May Reduce Some Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Disease,” July 19, 2016, http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/25488/20160719/modified-rye-bread-reduce-symptoms-irritable-bowel-disease.html ↩