Indeed, food producers save as much as 30% in ingredient costs by opting for cellulose as a filler or binder in processed foods, according to a source close to the processed food industry who spoke with TheStreet on the condition of anonymity. Inman said that in his 30 years in the food science business, he's seen "an amazing leap in terms of the applications of cellulose fiber and what you can do with it." He said powdered cellulose has a bad reputation but that more of his customers are converting from things like oat or sugar cane fibers to cellulose because it is "snow white in color, bland and easy to work with."
Most surprising, said Inman, is that he's been able to remove as much as 50% of the fat from some cookies, biscuits, cakes and brownies by replacing it with powdered cellulose -- but still end up with a very similar product in terms of taste and appearance. "We're only limited by our own imagination," Inman told TheStreet. "I would never have dreamed I could successfully put 18% fiber in a loaf of bread two years ago." He said cellulose is common in processed foods, often labeled as reduced-fat or high-fiber -- products like breads, pancakes, crackers, pizza crusts, muffins, scrambled eggs, mashed potato mixes, and even cheesecake. Inman himself keeps a box of Wheat Thins Fiber Selects crackers, manufactured by Kraft Foods ( KFT)' Nabisco brand, at his desk, and snacks on them daily, clearly unmoved by the use of wood pulp in its ingredients. "Most consumers would be shocked to find these types of filler products are used as substitutes for items that they believe are more pure," Yoshikami said. "We would expect increased disclosure to follow increased use of cellulose and other filler products as the practice increases in frequency." To that end, TheStreet rounded up a list of popular foods that use cellulose. It's by no means an exhaustive list, and we suggest consumers read food labels carefully. Still, click through the slideshow to find out if your favorite foods contain the "all-natural" wood pulp... ( Please note the following lists are not exhaustive. Some companies list all ingredients on their Web sites. Other items were found in a local grocery store near TheStreet's headquarters on Wall Street in New York City.)