Warburtons chases GI health trend

Related tags Gi Glycemic index

Warburtons has laid down the gauntlet to its mainstream UK rivals
by developing white bread with a low glycaemic index as both
consumers and producers become more aware of the benefits 'GI' can
have in controlling diabetes, obesity and energy levels, writes
Chris Mercer.

Independent baker Warburtons says it has used added fibre and a special ingredients formula to develop a truly white bread with the wheatgerm goodness of wholemeal and a low position on the glycaemic index (GI) - a scale used to measure how quickly certain foods release carbohydrates which then raise consumers' blood glucose levels.

This, claims Warburtons, means its new 'All in One' loaf will "provide a source of longer lasting energy"​ by releasing carbohydrates into the consumer's bloodstream more slowly and therefore increasing blood sugar levels more steadily.

Most white and wholemeal breads have a relatively high GI position and this has left them open to public criticism as higher GI foods, which cause blood sugar levels to rise more rapidly, have also become increasingly associated with a higher risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Some breads, such as stoneground wholemeal and those made with rye, already have a low GI, yet Warburtons pointed out that the taste of these products was not popular with many families. Indeed, white bread remains the overwhelming UK staple and the challenge for the country's bakers is to combine taste with health, something a white loaf with a low GI could do.

"We see this as being very important in terms of a long-term trend in the market,"​ said Warburtons spokesperson Claire Simpson to BakeryAndSnacks.com​. "After Atkins and low-carb diets, there's been a lot more coming into the press about GI and complex carbohydrates and the role that they have, particularly for children,"​ she said.

Even so, the main problem for Warburtons has been how to convey its low GI message to consumers, and the company will print a slogan on All in One packs based on the 'longer lasting energy' idea.

Simpson said: "We needed a consumer-friendly term. We felt that if we started talking about GI tables on products, there would be no great understanding, even though awareness is getting there."​ Warburtons will launch a £2 million advertising campaign for All in One in April.

More consumers do seem to be picking up on GI. Almost a third of those questioned by market analysts at Leatherhead Food International​ last year said they believed GI offered a good solution to the current obesity problem and 50 per cent said they wanted more information.

The report admitted some consumers were sceptical of GI as just another fad, yet food retailers and manufacturers have already begun taking the system seriously.

Tesco, Britain's leading multiple retailer, introduced food labels showing a product's GI ranking last June and positioned the GI system as a more moderate alternative to the Atkins diet.

And a GI testing service set up at the University of Reading in January 2004 said it trialled more than 100 products during last year, with strong interest from manufacturers, ingredient suppliers and distributors.

Simon Hails, head of consumer research at RSSL, the group running the tests, said: "Some companies want to test what they already have but others are interested in reducing the GI of existing products."

Hails added that GI was also gaining scientific credibility. "The weight of scientific opinion is beginning to come down on the side of GI and its role in offering a balanced diet. It is founded in science."

A number of ingredients are available for the production of low GI foods, including soluble fibre, polyols and resistant starch. The index itself is based on a highest score of 100: high GI foods are therefore classed as those scoring more than 70, moderate are those ranging from 55 to 69 and low GI foods are those rating under 55.

Warburtons will launch its All in One bread at the start of March. The 800g loaf will be available in both thick and medium-sliced varieties with a recommended selling price of 95p.

To view GI tables click here​, or to find out more about GI testing click here.

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