The market for gluten-free foods has boomed in recent years fuelled by increased diagnosis of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder with symptoms triggered by gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, rye and spelt, combined with increased popularity of gluten-free diets for perceived health benefits. The only treatment currently available is to avoid gluten-containing foods.
National Starch produces a broad range of starches from gluten-free ingredients such as maize, tapioca and rice, but this is the first time it has developed ingredients specifically for use in gluten-free bakery.
The company introduced the starches at the recent IFT trade show in Anaheim, California, where Marc Green, senior manager of marketing communications told FoodNavigator-USA.com: “We have developed solutions for cookies, cakes and muffins that help deal with crumbly and dry textures. They are very close to the gluten-containing products.”
While the company said that bakers can now make gluten-free products “without major compromises”, Green added: “We are still looking at breads, where it’s taking a bit longer.”
Sensory panel assessment
The company used its new starch ingredients to create cookies, muffins and cakes which it then submitted to an in-house sensory panel for evaluation. Panelists assessed the products for different criteria, including dry and crumbly vs. moist and chewy and grainy vs. smooth. It found that the National Starch varieties “came close to gluten-containing products on important attributes – smooth, moist and chewy – while even the best commercial gluten-free products fell short.”
National Starch said it has now developed a library of formulations to provide the best possible texture for various applications.
The ingredients would be listed on nutrition labels as tapioca flour, rice flour or corn flour, which Green described as “very familiar, homey, comforting ingredients”.
He added that although only 40,000 to 60,000 Americans have been diagnosed with celiac disease, “you have to multiply that by two or four because it impacts the whole family.” In addition, many believe that celiac disease is more prevalent than these figures suggest, and the federal government estimates that there could be as many as 3m who are undiagnosed – or just under one percent of the population.