Celebrity endorsements next marketing spin for fiber?

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary fiber, Nutrition

With half of America's consumers unclear on the health benefits of
dietary fiber, a new survey reveals that celebrity endorsements may
be the way forward for food manufacturers to promote their
high-fiber products.

The research, published this week by the National Fiber Council (NFC), reveals that consumers are most likely to learn about fiber through the media, yet few people are aware which foods are good sources of this.

The NFC, set up last year to promote fiber consumption, now appears to be trying to encourage the food industry to use celebrities as a way to raise consumer awareness of the health benefits of fiber.

When asked which celebrity maintains good health through fiber, over one third of respondents chose Oprah Winfrey, whose public weight loss was achieved through healthy eating and exercise. Next on the list was Brad Pitt, with 21 percent of votes, followed by Jennifer Garner at 19 percent.

"In today's culture, many of us have a strong tendency to keep close tabs on the lives of celebrities, their weight and weight fluctuations, as well as their individual health and fitness regimens. This survey provided some interesting insight into what the average American perceives good health to look like based on a number of celebrity choices,"​ said James Anderson, chairman of the NFC and professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the University of Kentucky.

While celebrity endorsements are not as widespread in the food industry as they are elsewhere, such as in the cosmetics and fragrance industries, they have started to make an appearance as a marketing spin by some companies or organizations.

In the UK, for example, the industry regulatory body Food Standards Agency (FSA) last year called on celebrities and sports stars, as well as broadcasters, to help promote healthier foods to children and their parents by increasing the association between high profile characters and healthier foods.

And the success of the image-driven low-carb diet craze was certainly also pushed along by celebrity endorsements.

As dietary fiber is increasingly linked to a range of health benefits by numerous scientific studies, manufacturers have started to promote the fiber content of their foods.

Yet two recent independent studies- conducted by Frost & Sullivan and HealthFocus International- have pointed out that food companies must also educate consumers on the health benefits of dietary fiber in order to maximize sales.

Indeed, according to the NFC survey, many consumers harbor a "host of misconceptions"​ about fiber, its specific health benefits, the amounts necessary for good health and which foods are fiber-rich.

The survey revealed that some consumers falsely believed fiber helps improve bone strength and vision, while not being aware of its role in the management of diabetes.

Others thought steak and potato chips were better sources of dietary fiber than whole grain breads, nuts and broccoli.

"Based on these survey findings, it's very evident that many consumers lack basic information about dietary fiber and the important role fiber can play in the maintenance and prevention of some of the most prevalent health conditions affecting Americans today, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity,"​ said Anderson.

"These findings really help to explain the reasons behind the U.S. 'fiber deficit' - the fact that most Americans only consume about half the recommended amount of fiber they need each day,"​ he added.

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