Consumers with gluten sensitivities are well aware that gluten can be found in more than just baked goods. They’re meticulous label readers who expect the gluten-free products they consume to have the volume, appearance, texture, nutrition, flavor and shelf life that’s comparable to their gluten containing counterparts.
And a growing number of consumers are becoming more accepting and aware of products in this category. With gluten-free products gaining momentum, the FDA recently published a definition of the term for use in the United States, harmonizing their rule to the international standards in the Codex and European Commission Regulations.
What does the momentum for gluten-free products look like in terms of the marketplace?
Nearly 24,000 food and beverage products have been launched globally in the last year that make claims of gluten-free, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. It’s clear that companies are recognizing this underserved market and are taking note of the continuing success of new products in this area.
Meanwhile, formulators face the challenge of creating gluten-free formulations more regularly. Knowing the basics of replacing gluten-containing ingredients with more acceptable ones is integral to successful formulations.
How does gluten function?
In the broadest terms, gluten, which is derived from wheat, is a water-insoluble, stretchy complex protein when mixed with water. It can have one or more of the following functions within a product, so these are the properties that you will need to replace in your formulation:
- Water absorption agent
- Water retention agent
- Thermosetting agent
- Film Former
- Processing Aid
- Flavor enhancer
For replacing flour in a formulation, you will need to consider using a hydrocolloid, a protein source, a starch, and/or possibly a small amount of fat depending on your application. There is no “one size fits all” solution. The ideal ratio for these ingredients will vary depending on how the gluten would have functioned in the gluten-containing formula. For example, bread formulas will be different in proportion than cookie formulas, as you require more visco-elasticity to produce a comparable bread product.
Use sensory testing to determine what traits are most valuable in helping you determine your proportions and learn what mixing/processing functions are affected most by the use of gluten.
Tips for formulating gluten-free products:
- As celiac organizations warn their members, avoid using proteins from wheat, barley, rye, or triticale – avoid use of their derivatives, like graham flour, semolina, spelt, durum, and farina as well.
- You need to know where gluten may come from when formulating – it could be a component in a dry mix, soup base, malt vinegar, soy sauce or seasoning blend you are using. Gluten free alternatives may be readily available from your supplier.
- Flour blends combining rice, tapioca and potato ingredients are a usual starting point. Consider the use of the following ingredients in your formulation as a starch component:
- Arrowroot Starch
- Bean Flour or Pea Starch
- Buckwheat (buckwheat is not a wheat, despite it’s name)
- Corn Bran Germ, Meal, or Starch
- Potato Flour or Potato Starch Flour
- Rice Bran, Flour, or Starch Flour
- Sorghum Flour
- Tapioca or Cassava Starch
- You may need a protein or hydrocolloid element to help with the strengthening and binding aspects that you would have received in a formula with gluten, especially in products where the gluten functionality is critical, like bread or some batters. Also consider adding these to improve your nutritional profile – the addition of nut or bean proteins can offer a boost in your protein levels that may offer a point of difference between you and your competitors. The following ingredients may prove helpful in fulfilling this need in your formulation:
- Egg ingredients
- Nut flours
- Bean and pea proteins
- Whey proteins
- Soy proteins
- Hydrocolloids: carboxymethylcellulose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, xanthan gum, guar gum and alternatives like flax and/or chia
- Additional fat may be required to maintain similar eating qualities in a gluten-free formulation, especially over the shelf life of the finished product. Recall that wheat flour contains a small amount of fat that may help your product improve the textural properties over time.
- Consider use of fiber and fortification in your formulation – some products on the market are lacking in nutrients that would be more available in gluten-containing formulations.
- Water hydration is likely to change in your gluten-free formulation, and thus, more control of your mix times, shelf life, microbial levels, and texture may be necessary. To improve your shelf life, consider the use of mold inhibitors, staling reduction enzymes, or require freezing of your product to ensure its stability.
- Drop-in bulk flour replacement mixes are available to expedite your development cycle and can be found through many ingredient suppliers.
While this topic is vast, hopefully these suggestions will get you started in discovering your options for creating a successful gluten-free product. Use the resources below to find ingredients in Innovadex available in the United States and Europe, as well as information on gluten-free products and formulating.
Ingredients in Prospector:
Products Labeled as Gluten Free
Products Labeled as Gluten Free
US Federal Register – Gluten Free Labeling of foods
AIB – Wheat Gluten in Food and Non-Food Systems – June 1994
Ingredion Webinar on Formulating Gluten Free Products, October 24, 2013
Celiac Sprue Association – Gluten Free Flour Formulas
Celiac Sprue Association – Grains and Flours Glossary
Food Product Design – Formulating with Gluten Free Flour (October 3, 2011)
Whole Grains Council Presentation – Gluten Free: long-term trend or short-term fad.
American Institute of Baking – Gluten-Free Reference Resource List
Euromonitor International – Gluten-Free, Lactose-Free and other popular eating trends around the world
FDA.gov – What is Gluten Free?
Pavone Food – Who is the Gluten Free Consumer
Food Technology – The Rise of Gluten Free
CNBC – Forget Fat, The Hot New Thing to Avoid is Gluten
FoodBusinessNews.net Research Assistant – Gluten Free
BakingBusiness.com Research Assistant – Gluten Free
Canadian Society for Bioengineering – A response surface methodology for optimizing gluten free bread formulation containing hydrocolloid, modified starch and rice flour
BakingBusiness.com – How to formulate for gluten-free
International Baking Industry Exposition – Formulating Gluten-Free
Food and Nutrition Sciences – Utilization of different hydrocolloid combinations in gluten-free bread making
International Journal of Food Sciences & Nutrition, Analysis of ingredient lists of commercially available gluten-free and gluten-containing food products using the text mining technique
Trends in Food Science & Technology – Nutritive Value of pseudocereals and their increasing use as functional gluten-free ingredients
Food Processing & Technology – Comprehensive Study on Physical Properties of 2 Gluten-Free Flour Fortified Muffins
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