Pattern of progress
As the hottest trend in the baked foods market, the gluten-free category moves fast, with new products tripping over one another to reach store shelves. Equipment manufacturers see this in the inquiries they receive.
“Most new gluten-free projects involve products that mimic popular items that are not gluten-free,” said David Moline, sales and marketing manager, Moline Machinery, “but flatbreads — including tortillas, wraps and pita — are particularly trendy right now.”
For Rademaker USA and Eric Riggle, the company’s vice-president, recent gluten-free projects involved sandwich-style bread and 1-lb loaves, plus pizza crusts. He reported many requests about gluten-free lines during the International Baking Industry Exposition last fall.
“Everybody seems to be jumping on the band wagon and rushing to offer gluten-free in all the traditional categories — hamburger and hotdog buns and, especially, pizza crust,” Mr. Riggle said. “But the overwhelming request is that it needs to taste good, consistently good. In the world of gluten-free, quality and consistence are the same thing.”
At Handtmann, Bakery Technology Manager Cesar Zelaya reported high interest in equipment for making gluten-free pizza as well as sandwich bread and pound cake. “Wraps, tortillas and flatbreads have been involved in recent projects, too,” he said.
Portion size is another trend, according to Franco Fusari, sales managing director, Minipan. “The dimensions of the typical gluten-free food are smaller than for conventional products, and packages also are smaller.” He reported the use of thermoform trays containing two or three slices of bread rather than a whole loaf.
So many styles are involved that Jon Thompson, national sales director, Rheon USA, found no particular pattern. However, he noted, inquiries come from customers of all sorts, from small single-shop facilities to some large manufacturers. “As the variety of products in the gluten-free category increases and the public awareness of benefits of gluten-free diets grows, we believe bakers will continue to have interest in how best to serve this section of the population,” he said.