Free-From Foods Have Become a Movement

More ingredients are designed to accommodate free-from foods, which makes formulating products easier.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

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Ardent Mills has an "Ancient Grains" portfolio of amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff. They're all gluten-free options that work well in most bakery applications while also boosting whole grain nutrition and fiber. They are available in a variety of forms, including custom multigrain blends, mixes and gluten-free all-purpose 51 percent whole multigrain flour blend.

Because they don’t contain gluten, however, developers will need to consider their impact on volume and or crumb structure in the finished baked applications, says Don Trouba, director of marketing. "Typically when gluten-containing ingredients are decreased due to the addition of Ancient Grains, mix times are usually shorter," he says. "For gluten free applications, it’s important to remember these ingredients usually hold more water than native starch, so adjustments to moisture are often needed. And although some structure can come from Ancient Grains, other starches and protein are usually still necessary. Our R&D and technical team has extensive experience working with these grains in conventional and gluten free applications. We find collaboration to be a powerful tool, both for determining which grains to use and in understanding their impact on processing."

The flour base plays an important role in making gluten-free foods that have a desirable taste and texture, adds Angela Ichwan, Ardent Mills' senior director of research and technical solutions. "An important strategy in developing gluten-free baked goods and other grain-based foods to is to use blends of different gluten-free flours and starches and to customize the flour blend for the recipe. For example, whole sorghum flour works well in foods that are comparatively higher in moisture such as breads and muffins, but a high inclusion level of sorghum can impart grittiness in certain types of cookies."

While once laden with gluten, Ingredion Inc., Westchester, Ill., has been building a portfolio of ingredients free of a number of allergens. Its marketing materials promise "Gluten-free pizza with a satisfying, chewy crust. Mayonnaise that makes a tangy sandwich spread without help from eggs… Reduced-sugar canned fruit without artificial sweeteners … Meat substitutes with Vitessence pulse proteins."

The company claims it can help processors formulate foods and beverages that are: dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, gelatin-free, soy-free, as well as kosher, halal, vegan and vegetarian.

In particular, new pulse-based proteins feature dried peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas.

Consumers' right to know

While GMOs are not on any allergen lists, plenty of consumers are avoiding them. The pending enactment July 1 of Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling bill has stepped up the need for a national regulation for labeling foods with genetically engineered ingredients.

Mandell says he's "not in favor of the state-by-state approach to the GMO issue. Legislation should occur on a national level, as the consumer has a right to know. In 2012, we made the decision that all Enjoy Life products will be non-GMO-verified."

Bunge Milling's line of non-GMO project-verified milled corn products are aimed at development of corn grits, meals and flour milled from non-bioengineered corn. "Representatives of major brands are clearly interested in non-GMO corn products, but that couldn't happen unless we initiated some type of program," said Wade Ellis, Bunge North America Milling vice president.

Last year, the St. Louis company acquired non-GMO expeller-pressed oil manufacturer Whole Harvest Foods as part of its efforts to boost food manufacturers' access to non-GMO ingredients. Its soybean, canola and sunflower seeds are expeller-pressed to produce clean and highly stable oil ingredients, it says. The non-GMO seeds are grown on a fourth-generation family farm in Ontario.

The food industry is evolving for the better, Mandell says, largely driven by proactive consumers tired of products that either don't fit their personal beliefs or their preferred diet. "Entrepreneurship in the food industry has been significant, due to changing views providing opportunities to be innovative," he adds. "Now that larger CPG businesses have taken a more active approach (whether that's to build or to buy), the trend is most definitely toward better-for-you products."

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