Fraser Court, diet, health and nutrition specialist for product innovation at Campden BRI, said the role of snacking had significantly evolved over the past 40 years.
“In the 1970s, it was all about high energy, high-GI. It was about a quick fix product that filled the gaps between meals and these snacks were very commonly associated with over-processing. Fast forward 40 years, now we’re looking much more at snacking for health,” he told attendees at Campden BRI’s Snacks Technology Conference this week.
“The role of snacking in the context of the whole diet has shifted from a short-term energy hit to something more of a meal compliment.
“…If the role of a snack is to provide constant energy in a satisfying manner, we have to consider glycaemia,” he said.
High-GI snacks, for example, delivered high amounts of readily available simple carbohydrates (mono and disaccharides), he said, which disrupted blood sugar (glycaemia) and could ultimately dysregulate insulin signaling and resistance.
“If we have low-GI, we don’t get that disruption and that is positive,” he added.
How to develop low-GI cereal snacks?
Court said snack makers could lower the GI value of cereal snacks by replacing carbohydrate content with ingredients like protein.
“Fundamentally the other thing we can do is just reduce the monosaccharide content, replacing with more complex carbs,” he said.
Making low-GI claims on pack, however, could prove more complex, he said.
“This is actually quite a tricky thing to do at the moment, especially in Europe and predominantly because of the difficulty in defining the product formulation…But there are some cases where low-GI claims have been accepted by EFSA.”
EFSA has approved GI claims on beta glucans from oats and barley and arabinoxylan from wheat endosperm, although Court said both claims were quite complex in how they could be used.
“I expect more (claims) to be approved over time, but that is something that needs to be driven by industry,” he said.
Asked by BakeryandSnacks.com if consumer education would be needed on low-GI claims, he said: “Health claims are shifting every day and that is leading to confusion, it’s also not helped by the prescriptive wording handed down by EFSA. In time, I feel consumers will warm up to these claims when they understand the wording but I agree that at the moment there is a challenge there that won’t be overcome unless we tackle it.”
When manufacturers looked to lower GI, Court said it was vital to maintain energy density in snacks.
“The market is beginning to realize that low-energy snacks are counter to the fundamental principle of a snack – snacks need to provide energy and cereal snacks are very, very nicely positioned to deliver sustainable energy and in a way that fits into the context of the whole diet.”
Protein was one option, he said, but macronutrients could also be another choice, although most research on how these improved satiety and modulated hunger in a later meal remained academic.
“There’s clearly further work required – we need to understand this more. It’s an extremely complex process – it’s not simply about filling the gut, there’s a very, very complex downstream pathway that starts right at the point of that snack product and the first point we eat it. Some would argue psychologically even before that.”