Food waste has been used to boost the fibre content of tortillas by researchers at Campden BRI.

As part of its Calorie Reduction and Fibre Enhancement study, a research team replaced 20% of the wheat flour in tortillas with butternut squash peel powder.

As a result, fibre content was increased by 97% from 3.3g to 6.5g per 100g meaning if the tortillas were sold, they would be eligible for a ‘high fibre’ claim on pack.

Bakery scientist Lucas Westphal, who is leading the project, said tortillas were chosen due to their popularity, meaning they were “likely to have a real impact on people’s diets”.

“On average, people in the UK do not consume enough fibre, and food waste is also a major concern for both consumers and the food industry. Consumers like familiarity, so producing a high-fibre product that is similar to a well-known one holds potential as an effective route to increasing the public’s fibre intake,” he said.

While the fibre content of the wraps soared, calories were only reduced by 3.5%.

“We’ve successfully increased the fibre, but in this case calorie reduction has been minimal. We’ll continue to look at ways of achieving both goals over the next two years,” Westphal added.

The peel, which would have otherwise been processed in an anaerobic digester to produce electricity, was supplied by Barfoots of Botley, which specialises in semi-exotic produce.

Adding the ingredient also had another side effect – changing the colour of the tortilla.

“Colour plays a critical role in determining the consumer’s acceptance of a product, and our reformulation created a golden yellow tortilla, a food colour that’s generally accepted as appealing,” said bakery technologist Leandra Molina Beato, who worked on the project.

The research, which will run until December 2021, aims to provide the food industry with an understanding of the functionality of dietary fibres, their performance and potential new sources.

“There are many factors to consider when incorporating dietary fibre into a product. An ingredient’s functionality can modify both the finished product in appearance, texture and taste, and the behaviour of the product during manufacture. Trialling different fibres in different products is the only way to determine the impact on functionality and consumer appeal,” added Molina Beato.

The next phase of the research will begin trialling varying concentrations of commercial fibres in pizza bases, tomato sauces and in meatballs, while assessing characteristics that may affect product quality and consumer acceptability. Consumer and sensory trials will determine consumer acceptance of the reformulated products.