1660318091753 Batterscoatings

Even Batters and Breadings Follow the Trends

March 3, 2021
Whether the end product must be gluten-free, healthy or plant-based, breadings can answer the call.

No food or beverage category is immune to consumer trends. Not even breadings, batters and coatings.

Gluten-free, plant-based meat analogues, clean labels all present some challenges for food processors when using batters & breadings. But those consumer trends cannot be denied, so all it takes is a little effort ... and some help from suppliers of batters and breadings.

“The biggest trends now [in breadings] are gluten-free and clean label,” says Ron Pagaoa, senior marketing manager-savory category for Ingredion. They’re part of the bigger trend to make every food product more healthful, to which he adds, “There are ways to make healthier batters and breadings.

“There are 121 million gluten-free consumers,” he continues. “Some have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, some just follow the diet because they think it’s healthier or will help them lose weight. The pulse flours, as well as rice and tapioca flours and corn and potato starches, can help processors formulate breadings that are gluten-free.”

Ingredion has invested heavily lately in pulses and has fine-tuned its pulse flours so they offer the same crispyness and flavor development as traditional breadings – plus the product label can carry the name of the pulse, which gets noticed by some consumers.

The right breading was key to “getting the texture just right" in Conagra’s Birds Eye Cauliflower Wings.

And then there’s that other trend-setter, which hopefully is nearing its end: COVID-19. The pandemic’s effect on restaurant closings has put a dent in diners’ ability to get delicious deep-fried foods, with their crisp outside breading protecting a moist inside. Fewer restaurant meals have translated into more home cooking, but not every home has a deep fryer, nor do many home cooks want the difficulty and mess of deep-frying at home.

“Consumers still want fried foods, but that’s hard to do at home,” says Erin Radermacher, technical account manager for the texturizers and specialty business of Cargill. “So we build in a lot of fried food technology into batters and breadings that can create fried foods at home with conventional cooking or air fryers.”

There are a lot of different starches, she says, most with differing functionalities. Adhesion may be primary for some product developers; for others, it’s hold time under a heat lamp; still others are developing frozen products that must bake or microwave like they just came out of a deep fryer.

For some applications, native starches will do. For others, only a modified starch will provide the needed functionality.

While sit-down dining may have suffered during the pandemic, last year’s “chicken sandwich wars” proved drive-throughs and delivery services could satisfy consumers’ desires for fried foods.

“Spicy Chicken McNuggets are back!” trumpeted McDonald’s commercials early this year. The premium white-meat chicken is a great starting point, but it’s the coating that makes these stand out – and not just the ground chipotle pepper but also the panko bread crumbs. Panko generally is lower in calories, fat, and sodium than regular breadcrumbs but provides larger flakes and more crunch.

Two trends mentioned before – plant-based analogues and cooking at home – come together in Conagra’s Birds Eye Cauliflower Wings. “It was important that even though our product would be a veggie twist on a classic wing, that our recipe delivered on what people love most about traditional snacks and appetizers such as the crispy texture and the bold flavors, like Buffalo or Barbeque,” says Marcie Tasker, R&D manager at Conagra Brands.

With healthier but unfamiliar vegetables in their centers, Green Giant Veggie Rings, Fries or Tots had to have the familiar breading of the original product.

“Getting the texture just right was a mix of using the optimal processing technique and the perfect breading,” she continues. “So we developed a recipe where we batter the cauliflower florets, coat them in crunchy, breadcrumbs and fry them before getting packaged. Then, once a consumer bakes them in the oven at home they have the perfect crispy bite just like you’d expect from a boneless wing but with tender cauliflower florets.”

Conagra is drawing on the Birds Eye vegetable heritage to create a number of new products with veggies as their base but with novel coatings, many of them breadings. In addition to Buffalo and barbecue, the Cauliflower Wings line includes parmesan; the Crispy Veggies line consists of green beans, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli florets, all lightly breaded.

Green Giant, the B&G Foods brand, offers Veggie Rings, Veggie Fries and Veggie Tots – all replacing less-healthy vegetables with trendy choices like cauliflower, broccoli and zucchini, but all with tasty breadings.

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