Once seen as a highly niche microtrend, the “free-from” foods category has made the move to the mainstream. With this rise in popularity of gluten-free products has come a surge in technology to help food manufacturers overcome the textural and flavor issues that arise when removing gluten from baked goods and other formulations.
The phrase “gluten-free” has become firmly linked in consumers’ minds with being “good for you”, in spite of only a few percent of persons having a diagnosed need to avoid the glutenin and gliadin proteins that make up the gluten found in wheat and its relatives.
Even health-conscious consumers without intolerance or allergy issues increasingly choose gluten-free products, seeing them as a healthy alternative to gluten equivalents. Reducing or managing the intake of gluten is also increasingly seen by consumers as beneficial for digestive health improvement or a helpful aid to weight management package.
According to Mintel data, the gluten-free claim appeared on nearly 10% of food and drink launches globally in 2013, up from 6% in 2009. Globally, volumes of gluten-free bakery products increased from 123,800 tons in 2011 to 175,900 tons in 2014, an increase of 42%. In North America the gluten-free bakery market grew from 21,800 tons in 2011 to 43,200 tons in 2014. This growth is predicted to continue. The importance of gluten-free processing will increase further, as the foodservice industry confronts increasing requests by consumers to carry gluten-free items on the menu.
Beneo International’s own fiber research has shown that 16% of consumers claim they now try to limit their intake of gluten, while 7% avoid it entirely. In the US, the 19% of consumers try to limit their intake and 8% claim they are trying to avoid gluten.
There still are barriers to creating viable gluten-free baked goods that mimic their gluten-containing counterparts. The largest of these have to be the texture and taste perceptions historically linked to baked gluten-free products.
For manufacturers to maximize the opportunity presented by consumers’ perceptions of health in gluten-free products, they need to ensure such products not only have a range of health attributes, but are convenient and offer the equivalent taste, texture and nutritional profiles as traditional baked goods and cereals.
Lack of gluten in recipe formulations led to a well-deserved reputation for being dry, bland and, in too many cases, crumbly or otherwise badly textured. Also, the nutritional content of gluten-free foods is an increasing area of concern: In most cases, they are not fortified and are poorer in B vitamins, iron, folate, protein and dietary fiber than gluten equivalents. In addition, they often have a shortened shelflife, creating additional storage and shipping challenges for the manufacturer and retailer alike.
To overcome such challenges, it is essential that manufacturers make the most of functional ingredients. One example is rice derivatives. Applying certain ingredients from rice in developing gluten-free formulations can provide prepared foods that offer improved taste and texture, as well as other nutritional and technical benefits.
The extensive range of available non-GMO specialty rice ingredients is proving particularly popular with gluten-free producers. This is because these ingredients add mouthfeel, longevity and nutritional content to end products.
Rice flour and rice starch can be key ingredients for enabling the formation of gluten-free products that closely match their gluten/wheat-based equivalents. According to Mintel, there has been a huge uptake in the use of rice flour in gluten-free baked goods, with good reason. White rice flour is characterized by its high starch content (approximately 78%) and hypoallergenic protein (approximately 7%).
In gluten-free bread, rice flour enhances the crumb structure and volume and, thanks to its ability to promote water retention during the baking process, extends the shelflife and moistness of soft baked goods such as cakes. In comparison to other gluten-free equivalents, such as corn and potato starches, rice derivatives also can provide a cleaner, more neutral taste profile.
Specialty rice ingredients, including flour and starch, offer food producers high quality, stable products that encompass a wide range of nutritional benefits. They are naturally derived, hypoallergenic, non-GMO, clean-label, as well as rich in antioxidants. Beneo Inc. has developed a comprehensive portfolio that includes whole-grain flour variants, to fulfill the growing interest in whole-grain, gluten-free products.
The Rice Touch
Technically, bakery products can overcome a range of gluten-free challenges using rice derivatives. The rice starch granule can be formulated to the highest levels of whiteness, with an ultrafine grain. This allows rice starch to provide exceptional texture in finished products. It can be formulated to be crunchy, crispy or soft, depending on the profile required.
For example, the hardness and brittleness of thin bakery products can be fine-tuned by adding small amounts of rice starch, for example Beneo’s Remyline AX FG P. An added benefit is the strength of the starch helps reduce production losses arising from breakage, for example, of biscuits or crackers, during packaging.
For soft baked goods like cakes and muffins, rice starches (e.g. Beneo’s Remygel 663), are formulated for ideal performance in maintaining the soft structure in the end product.
The neutral taste of rice ingredients means that they will not alter the overall taste and appearance of finished products, especially bread, biscuits, cakes or crackers. Only the texture will be improved.
These rice ingredients can also be combined with non-GMO dietary fibers, or sugar replacers, such as Beneo’s isomalt (glucose-mannitol/glucose-sorbitol), when formulating products for sugar reduction. Adding chicory root fibers, such as inulin or oligofructose, can supplement natural fiber in baked goods at the same time.
The use of inulin and oligofructose also improves taste and mouthfeel and enhances a product’s shelflife. In fact, inulin derived from chicory not only adds sweetness but can also be used to modify color and enhance the flavor of gluten-free baked goods formulations. In addition, the use of these functional ingredients in gluten-free cakes ensures that the products have improved softness, water retention and volume.
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