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Niche market untapped for gluten-free pulse sourced crackers, claims R&D centre

By Jane Byrne , 12-Mar-2010
Last updated on 12-Mar-2010 at 16:24 GMT2010-03-12T16:24:21Z

Pulse-based, gluten-free crackers have untapped potential both in terms of consumer appeal and health benefits, claim researchers based at a Canadian food processing development centre.

Nearly two million North Americans suffering gluten intolerance and the scientists said that, as a result, the objective of the project was to develop gluten-free, pulse-based cracker snacks that exploit the anti-allergenic and health-enhancing nature of pulses ingredients.

The outcome of their research is published in Food Research International.

According to Datamonitor, the global savoury snacks market grew by 4.6 per cent in 2008 to reach a value of $61.4bn, and is forecast to reach a value of $76.3bn in 2013, which represents an increase of 24.3 per cent since 2008.

Niche category

This market is relatively saturated, they stated, but argue that room remains for niche products high in nutrients such as fibre, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, or gluten-free.

The researchers note that pulses are now recognized as having significant potential health benefits: “Pulses contain complex carbohydrates (dietary fibres, resistant starch, and oligosaccharides), high protein with a good amino acid profile (high lysine), important vitamins and minerals (B-vitamins, folates, and iron), as well as antioxidants and polyphenols.”

Pulses are also gluten-free, they said, and have a low glycemic index, characteristics with benefits for people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and celiac disease.

Formulation

The authors said that they evaluated nine commercially available pulse fractions (chickpea, green and red lentil, yellow pea, pinto and navy bean flours and pea protein, starch and fibre isolates) and integrated them into a model cracker formulation.

Baking additives such as gelatinized rice starch, modified starch, xanthan gum, carboxy methyl and maltodextrin was also evaluated during preliminary formulation trials, but the researchers determined that the effect of these ingredients was minimal and that gluten-free pulse crackers formulated without the baking additives were of reasonable quality.

They said the physical and nutritional characteristics of the pulse crackers produced were similar to existing products on the market, but their sodium content, which was 345mg, was much higher:

“The sodium contents of existing products ranged from 80 to 220 mg per serving. The high sodium content of the pulse crackers can be easily adjusted without significantly affecting the quality of the cracker product,” argued the researchers.

Iron content

They stressed though that the daily values per serving of iron was three to six times higher in the chickpea crackers than existing products on a per serving basis.

“The higher iron content demonstrated the health benefit of the pulse ingredients in food system,” said the researchers.

And the authors added that the products scoring highly during consumer acceptance testing in relation to sensory attributes: “Based on its acceptability data, processing characteristics and consultation with an industry partner, the chickpea cracker formulation was advanced to a commercial-scale processing trial,” they said.

Source: Food Research International
Published online ahead of print
Title: Development of gluten-free cracker snacks using pulse flours and fractions
Authors: J Han, J A.M. Janz, M. Gerlat

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