Use better ingredients for tastier gluten-free food

July 22 2013

Chefs who are looking to improve the quality and diversity of their gluten-free menu options should be aware of the emergence of new technologies and recipes that are helping to improve the quality of these foods.

A presentation at the recent 2013 Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago has revealed that consumer priorities are beginning to change when it comes to selecting gluten-free products.

Chris Thomas, senior food technologist at Ingredion, said: "Historically, product development has focused on the gluten-free aspects - now, consumers want nutrition quality, variety and appearance."

The seminar also discussed the rise in demand for products of this kind, with the market for gluten-free foods expected to grow to US$6 billion by 2017, driven by the growing number of consumers with coeliac disease, those with a sensitivity to gluten and/or people who simply prefer to cut gluten out of their diets.

In the past, gluten-free products have often had a gritty or dry texture and a short shelf life, but food technicians are now creating new flours, starches and bran made from alternative ingredients to address this challenge.

Functional flours based on tapioca and rice are being used to achieve a texture, colour and appearance similar to wheat-containing products, as well as matching their calories, fat content, overall nutritional qualities and shelf life.

Pulses such as peas, lentils, chickpeas and edible beans are also being used to create flour and starch-like substances, resulting in the creation of high-protein foods that are low in fat and appealing to vegetarian consumers.

Dr Mehmet Tulbek, the global director of the research, development and innovation division of Alliance Grain Traders, said: "Pulse ingredients were found to be suitable for gluten-free expanded snack, pasta, meat and beverage products. Overall, the ingredients are working very well."

With recent research from the NPD Group showing that requests for gluten and wheat-free foods rose by 137 per cent in Canadian restaurants between 2010 and 2013, this is a trend of which food service operators would be well-advised to keep abreast.