Gluten-free baked products have a historically bad reputation—be it in the flavor, texture, performance or shelf life department. But the surge of demand from all corners of the market has forced bakery and snack manufacturers to respond with improved technologies and a better grasp of ingredient systems, says ingredient supplier Univar.
“I believe we already have all the ingredients we need to make great-tasting gluten-free products,” Tammy Jarrett, technical sales and business development, Univar’s US food ingredients team. “A lot them are already on the market. We also now have access to various systems where some manufacturers of starches and hydrocolloids already put together ready-to-use systems that just need tweaking.”
Like any baked product, when developing gluten-free products, formulas have to be adjusted based on the final results you want to achieve—be they tender cakes, extruded crackers or cereals or cavernous, leavened breads.
“When you replace wheat flour and look at the functionality gluten brings, that has to be replaced,” Jarrett said. “Typically that means you need to replace its elasticity function to ensure it’s not sticky so it can be processed for manufacturing conditions. That’s where challenge lies.”
Making the most of hydrocolloids
In addition to the wealth of flours now on the market, hydrocolloids can help mimic that elusive viscosity and elasticity gluten provides as a single composition.
The key with hydrocolloids is making sure they’re properly handled, meaning they need to by hydrated, Jarrett said. “They need to be hydrated in order to make sure you get the proper functionality. Some are very synergistic with different starches if you’re replacing gluten with tapioca or potato starch, for example. All those things have to be hydrated to get them functional and working in the matrix together. Not only does this step aid in viscosity and stickiness, it also helps stabilize the leavening system.”
Regardless, leavening systems in gluten-free formulations almost always require adjustment to accommodate new flours and proteins added, she noted.
Binders, stabilizers for better rise and longer shelf life
Other irksome challenges of gluten-free product manufacturing are the historically dense crumb structure and short shelf life. But these issues are improving, too, she said.
“Those problems are largely based on the types of ingredients you use in the system—specifically, when you change out different protein sources or starches, you have to maintain their functionality.” That’s where ingredients like pectin, xanthan gum and cellulose come in—with their binding, moisture retention and stabilizing capabilities. “They keep moisture in the system and help with retaining the air cells developed during leavening.”
Univar has worked with suppliers such as Dow Pharma and Food Solutions and CP Kelco on bread dough prototypes that are comparable to conventional bread dough in terms of structure, strength, texture and the necessary attributes, Jarrett said.
“I like to think we do have the ingredients that can accomplish the right texture and rise on bread dough. It’s about using a combination of ingredients to accomplish the right dough texture. I work with customers doing gluten-free pizza crust, bread, a variety of things. As more items are able to get out there with the technology and ingredients we have, the market will continue to grow.”
As more and more consumers turn to gluten-free as a “healthy lifestyle option,” Univar is fielding items on the marketplace.
Indeed, last year Univar launched an online formulation tool that enables customers to quickly gauge how complicated a new formula challenge might be (e.g. gluten-free or reduced sodium) and how Univar can help. Information is grouped according to trends and product categories, with even further enhancements available such as non-GMO- or Whole Foods-compliant.
Jarrett noted that the tool has been an effective way to bridge the gap between manufacturers and suppliers (all the information available on the tool is submitted by suppliers) in the growing gluten-free space.
“We do have technical folks such as myself who can work with customers to find out their objectives and custom formulate gluten-free products based on that. We get vendors involved when we need to in terms of driving development forward.”
11.30am EST, April 30, 2014.
Find out more about gluten-free market trends and growth opportunities; the science behind celiac disease, gluten intolerance and wheat allergy; the technical challenges of formulating great-tasting gluten-free products; and the latest consumer research.
This LIVE online panel debate moderated by FoodNavigator-USDA editor Elaine Watson brings together world-renowned celiac disease researcher Dr Alessio Fasano; TJ Mcintyre from leading gluten-free manufacturer Boulder Brands (Udis, Glutino);DrDavid Sheluga, director of commercial insights at food and ingredients giant ConAgra Foods; and Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Datamonitor.