“For gluten free products, soy ingredients such as soy flour, concentrates and isolate can be used in combination with other ingredients, such as sorghum, to improve the protein content in the finished food products,” says Mian Riaz, a soy protein scientist who servers on the United Soybean Board.
Soy oils do not contain soy protein, Riaz adds, so they can be used without fear of allergic reaction.
Another key consideration when making gluten-free products is the processing and handling of the raw dough, says Ying Bian, senior application scientist with Penford Food Ingredients. “The right balance of flours, starches and gums will provide structure with good crumb development yet maintain a soft moist product over time. Developing a raw dough that is machinable is important to consider as most gluten-free products tend to be more like batter than dough when in the raw form.”
The situation can get even more complicated when removal of more than one allergen is necessary, says Ying. “A large obstacle when removing multiple allergens is trying to maintain the original functionality provided by the allergens," she says. “For example, when removing gluten and eggs from a gluten-free cake, keeping the height and structure the same or similar to the original can be a complex task which often requires a multifaceted approach involving different technologies.”
When formulating with non-gluten flour, moisture retention can be a big issue, as well as structure, and elasticity shortfalls. Replacement flours often lack structure and elasticity and lose moisture quickly, says McRae. “Fiber such as citrus fiber can help with moisture retention in conjunction with gums such as xanthan gum and konjac that provide structure and elasticity, she says. “Microcrystalline cellulose can also help provide structure in a baked good while it is being heated.”
Quinoa is another good replacement for wheat (or barley or rye). Qrunch Foods, Denver, offers an organic, gluten-free line of non-meat burger patties made from quinoa, millet, pinto beans and lentils.
Since most burger replacements are made from soy, Qrunch has some differentiation. While the SKUs include flavors like Italian and Sweet Curry, the heritage grains themselves provide a nutty flavor, says Jim Adams, CEO and co-founder.
Specialty grains like millet and quinoa are becoming a bit easier to source, he believes. “It might be difficult if you are just spot buying,” he says. “But we have a good relationship with our supplier, so when we go to them they have been very good at helping us find the grains we need.” Qrunch Burgers are currently available in 280 Super Targets around the country.
Whatever approach is taken, for any allergen, food processors will continue to be pressed to develop products that are safe and taste great, says Edlong's Butler.
“I believe that consumers expect great tasting food and beverages regardless of dietary restrictions,” she says. “It is our job as manufacturers to ensure we meet expectation and this is what we constantly work on. In our lab we don’t believe in saying 'it tastes good … for a gluten free product or a dairy free product etc.' We always work towards 'it tastes great!' "