Starches from Different Sources

While the U.S. relies on corn for most of its starch, much of the world relies on the wheat, potato or tapioca starches, each with unique characteristics.

By Frances Katz, Senior Technical Editor

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Accu-Gel is made from non-GMO peas. With no chemical modification, the starch offers excellent heat-, shear- and acid-stability in food product formulations, the manufacturer claims. The product can be used in food products at 20-23 percent lower concentration than other starches.

The ingredient often is used in frozen desserts and similar products and is prized for its gelling ability. "It's bland and is used in place of modified starches by companies that want a clean label. It forms a great gel and is widely used in low-fat sour cream products." according to Jerry Kresnye of Norben Co. (, Willoughby, Ohio, which markets the product in the U.S.

Potatoes and rice

Potato starch has long been prized for its ability to maintain sheen and bind lots of water. National Starch Food Innovation (, Bridgewater, N.J., has a new product called N-Hance 59, a new functional native starch from potatoes. It retains moisture in poultry products while eliminating the need for modified starches, sodium phosphate or carageenan additives.

Introduced in March at the Natural Products Expo West , N-Hance 59 offers poultry producers serving the growing natural-food market a new clean-label option for preparing tumbled, injected, marinated, coated, par-cooked, frozen or otherwise packaged/semiprepared poultry products.

"What makes N-Hance 59 unique is its multifunctional role," says Joe Lombardi, marketing manager for National Starch's Wholesome Ingredients-North America, division. "N-hance 59 is both a highly functional moisture retainer and clean-label alternative to sodium phosphate and modified starches, additives traditionally used to retain moisture in meats. Our tests have shown N-Hance does remarkably well in retaining meat juiciness, increasing yield weight and improving visual and textural appeal. This is good news for poultry producers who want attractive, high-quality poultry that is free of sodium phosphates or modified starches."

The product also binds moisture in vacuum packaged meats so they maintain high yields. It's inherently bland and allows the flavors of meats and marinades to come through while delivering good mouthfeel. N-Hance 59 starch has a low gelatinization temperature and is relatively stable at low cooking temperatures, under neutral pH and in low-shear and stress conditions.

Remyline AX-FG-P, a specialty rice starch from A&B Ingredients, reduces fat uptake in tortilla chips by up to 50 percent, reduces breakage, improves machinability and increases crispiness.
Remyline AX-FG-P, a specialty rice starch from A&B Ingredients, reduces fat uptake in tortilla chips by up to 50 percent, reduces breakage, improves machinability and increases crispiness.

Rice, the most consumed food grain in the world, is available in many varieties. Both high-amylose rice and amylopectin rice are available, and two new micronized rice flours offer exceptionally fine particle sizes ideal for coatings, baked goods such as sponge cakes and rice paper wrappers.

These rice flours provide higher binding capacities than conventional rice flours. "The rice flours also emulsify oils and fats better than earlier rice flours and serve well as carriers for oils and fats," says Gil Bakal, managing director of A&B Ingredients (, Fairfield, N.J. "Thorough emulsification permits consistent product taste and texture."

The two types of rice flour include Remyflo R790T, based on a high amylose variety of rice, and Remyflo S90T, a waxy rice variety. As with other rice-based ingredients, these specialty flours are easy to digest, free of allergens and don't contribute off flavors commonly associated with some other flours. The products are well suited for food systems in which delicate flavors are crucial to product success.

Another ingredient is Remyline AX-FG-P specialty rice starch, developed to reduce fat uptake in tortilla chips by up to 50 percent. The specialty starch also reduces breakage, improves machinability during processing and can increase the crispiness of the chips. It replaces 2-5 percent of the corn flour. It is labeled as "rice starch" on the package.

Another grain that has grown popular is barley, especially waxy barley, an ingredient that combines the effect of the insoluble fiber beta glucan with the effect of the starch, a dense amylopectin. Barley Balance, made by Crookston, Minn.-based PolyCell Technologies ( and marketed by DKSH, Baltimore, Md., is a concentrate of waxy barley made by dry milling and separation, producing a product with about 23 percent beta glucan and 35 percent waxy starch.

The combination produces a bland, viscous gel with a low glycemic index that enhances functional foods and beverages. "In baked foods, the barley starch helps to hold water and prevent staleness," according to Tom Jorgens, president of PolyCell. "Products that contain enough beta-glucan can carry a cardiovascular claim. The viscosity and water holding helps increase satiety, making the combination carbohydrate product ideal for diet foods."

Going organic

Sources of starch added to improve functionality have broadened in recent years. There are starches processed to retain the "native starch" designation that offer most of the functionality of chemically processed starches.

For instance, National Starch's Novation line of products is available from potato, waxy rice, organic waxy maize and organic tapioca. They're processed by a technology that results in properties similar to modified starches, while meeting the labeling criteria of native starches. This allows the product developer to formulate with native starches, maintaining the quality and texture of modified cook-up starches.

National Starch's system for producing grains under identity preservation aids organic food processors in other ways. The company recently added some pregelatinized flours that can be used with starches. These products, made from wheat, provide functions such as thickening and stabilizing for food systems that require high freeze-thaw stability. They are suited for applications in which a natural, home-style appearance is desired, lending the opacity, texture and flavor balance typical of a flour.

Starches and other combination carbohydrates continue to expand in variety. From the large number of technical papers on the functionality and healthy characteristics of new starches, it wouldn't be surprising to see starch from yams, apples, blueberries, buckwheat, and mung beans on American tables. As corn is increasingly used for other purposes, such as fuel, there may be new uses for fruit and vegetable starches to thicken, alter textures and improve flavor of foods.

Note to Plant Operations

The native starches, whether from rice, potato, barley or other grains, are best used in systems with carefully regulated shear and heat. They may also have more variability triggered by variety, year and handling than modified starches.

Be sure you can measure the amount of shear and heat applied when manufacturing products using these native starches. Overmixing, for instance, can cause shear thinning in a final product, or may cause shear thickening and difficulties in pumping.

There may not be tests available that demonstrate differences, so think about how to control the amount of shear and heat, and reassess each batch of starch when the seasons or suppliers change.

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