Increasing UK Dietary Fibre – The Case for the Great White British Loaf

Principal Investigator: Dr Tindall, University of Reading

Around 90% of the UK population consumes less than the government recommended 30g of fibre per day. Low fibre intake is linked to higher risk of bowel cancer (the second highest mortality rate cancer for men and women in the UK) and long-term chronic diseases (particularly type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease).

White bread accounts for 76% of bread sold in the UK with around 12 million loaves sold each day. The high popularity of white bread and the need for gradual rather than abrupt changes to dietary fibre intakes means that increasing the fibre content of white bread is highly likely to contribute to improving overall UK dietary fibre intake.

Current fibre enhanced white breads (for example, 50:50 bread) use expensive imported wholemeal wheat, which cannot be grown in the UK. We will use newly-developed fibre enhanced white flour, which can grow in the UK, to maintain the white nature of the bread and keep costs down. The white flour also has the potential to be used in other bakery-related products such as croissants, naan breads and pizzas. This will be explored by industry stakeholders in the project.

Our project will use a combined behavioural, food technology and predictive modelling approach, informed by close collaboration with industry. By doing this, our research will identify what transformation in the UK wheat agri-food chain is needed to deliver high fibre white loaf bread to consumers. We’ve developed the project in collaboration with:

  • Asda and their associated millers and bakers (Allied Technical Centre)
  • seed producers (Limagrain)
  • UK wheat chain associated bodies (UK Flour Millers and the Agricultural Horticultural Development Board)
  • a grain broker (Agricole).

Our combined consumer behaviour and food technology studies will determine the acceptability of fibre-rich white bread. Meanwhile, economic behavioural studies will focus on how sectors in the wheat agri-food supply chain (production to manufacturing and distribution) relate to one another.

The first piece of work will ensure we are producing bread which consumers want to purchase, whilst the second will inform the development of our wheat chain model (WCM). We will develop this in collaboration with industry and it will be informed by:

  • concurrent modelling of UK farming land usage (LUAM model)
  • UK seasonal weather variation
  • changing climate impacts on UK domestic wheat production (GLAM-UK model) and international imports (GLAM model).

Both the LUAM and GLAM models have previously accounted for wheat. We will adapt the GLAM model to the UK during our project. Life cycle assessment work will help determine which environmental impacts might be affected by the change in wheat cultivars and include an uncertainty and sensitivity analysis of these impacts.

The WCM will account for the dynamics of the UK wheat agri-food chain and examine domestic production versus flour received from imports. Industry-informed modelling with all industry partners and their respective associations will quantify the transformational steps needed to increase fibre-rich flour production against a complex backdrop of domestic and imported wheat demand.

We will use a range of data to inform the WCM, including:

  • publicly available data such as the Farm Business Survey
  • data available via our industry partners
  • surveys of UK Flour Miller members and other industry stakeholders.

We will analyse data collected during the project on how participants in the chain relate to one another. It will inform our WCM and be available to other researchers and the public via our project website.

We will also create a graphical user interface for our WCM. This will give stakeholders and policy-makers access to the model both during and after the project. The generic nature of the model will mean it can easily be applied to other agri-food chains, besides wheat.