Gluten-free formulations have broken off into diverse paths. Research and development teams appear to be leaving no road untaken. Innovation is blossoming through work with sprouted grains and seeds, pulses and potato starches. Ancient grains show promise in the creation of gluten-free artisan bread.

All these roads of discovery may lead to higher quality gluten-free items, those with better texture, longer shelf life and increased levels of such nutritional benefits as fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins.

While people with celiac disease always will have reason to buy gluten-free products, the lasting mainstream success of such products may depend on higher quality product.

“The outlook for gluten-free products is good for 2015,” said Todd Giesfeldt, mill R.&D. senior manager for Didion Milling, Cambria, Wis. “The market category will continue to grow at least for the next several years. After that the marketplace will determine how much of a fad gluten-free is. By that time consumers without a real medical need will have stood the extra expense for some time. If they continue to buy gluten-free, this market will be with us for some time to come.”

Common sources of gluten

Flax and chia for function

Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass., has experimented with using flax seed and chia seed in gluten-free muffins. Chia and flax have the potential to increase viscosity and replace the functionalities of xanthan gum, other gums or instant starch, said Vanessa Klimczak, senior product applications technologist for Bay State Milling.

When water is added to them, chia and flax make a gum network, she said. These hydrocolloid properties make chia and flax possible replacements for xanthan gum and pre-gelatinized starch in gluten-free applications. Chia and flax also have a high amount of fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, Ms. Klimczak said.

“Chia and flax are kind of hot buttons right now,” she said. “So it has market appeal.”

Ancient grains for artisan

More market appeal for gluten-free artisan bread may come from the inclusion of ancient grains, Ms. Klimczak said.

“There are a couple of artisan gluten-free breads on the market,” she said. “However, it really is in my opinion a new avenue for gluten-free.”

Gluten-free grains might be made into sours similar to the creation of a wheat sour or a rye sour, she said. The gluten-free sours could provide a unique flavor and texture.

“I want to emphasize the variety of ancient grains there are, the amount of blends,” she said. “You can always blend the grains together to get a really unique flavor profile.”

Bay State Milling has found promise in the ancient grains millet and teff.

“Teff brought some chocolate, some brown notes, some roasted grain notes,” Ms. Klimczak said. “Millet was kind of clean, but it also brought some corn and some sweetness.”

Ardent Mills, Denver, offers a line of ancient grain products that include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum and teff.

“These grains offer fiber, protein, starch, unsaturated fats, vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients,” said Elizabeth Arndt, research fellow for Ardent Mills. “For example, teff and amaranth have the highest iron content compared to other grains and at least 4.5 times more calcium compared to wheat. Quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat have a higher quality protein compared to corn, rice, and other cereal grains, which are limited in lysine. Amaranth and quinoa offer more than six times the level of folic acid compared to rye, oats or wheat.”

A multigrain blend of sorghum, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and teff may be used in combination with rice flour and starch to make a 51% whole grain, seven-grain gluten-free bread, Dr. Arndt said.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Chicago, offers Harvest Pearl white whole grain sorghum flour that provides nutritional benefits associated with whole grains. Since sorghum flour does not contain gluten, it alone may not replace wheat flour. When used in conjunction with other proteins, starches and gums, sorghum flour has been shown to create products with good volume and texture, according to ADM.

Honeyville, Inc., Brigham City, Utah, has been active in the gluten-free category as well.

“Over the past two years Honeyville has introduced a gluten-free cracking facility as we have seen an increase in the amount of gluten-free requests for cereals and food bars,” said Tim Devey, corporate marketing director. “As a leading co-manufacturer, we have seen gluten-free ingredients like sorghum, quinoa and millet gaining in popularity, especially in the form of cracked grains and flours.”

Honeyville also has introduced gluten-free offerings in coconut flour, walnut flour, rice flour and hazelnut flour.

Sprouting potential

Sprouted grains have the potential to bump up the health attributes of products, including gluten-free items.

“In theory, any intact reproducible plant seed, including gluten-free grains, could be germinated or called ‘sprouted,’” said Gang Guo, director of wheat research and quality for Ardent Mills. “Sprouting of grains has always been associated with two major benefits: health and flavor. Health benefits include increased vitamins and minerals, altered protein profiles, and increased fiber.

“Each benefit gets amplified further by sprouting conditions and the material that is put into it. Sprouting also has been associated with the reduction of anti-nutrients. Some of the anti-nutrients such as phytic acid actually bind valuable minerals and cause them not to be absorbed by the body.”

Pulse partnership

The ability of pulse flours to add nutrition to gluten-free products received a boost this summer. Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., became the distributor for pulse flours, protein and bran ingredients from Alliance Grain Traders Inc., Regina, Sask., under an agreement between the two companies.

Eric Shinsato, senior project leader for Ingredion, spoke about pulses in a presentation at the AACC International annual meeting Oct. 7 in Providence, R.I. Pulses such as
lentils and chickpeas are high in protein, he said.

“We are just now getting into the applications of those and how they can improve gluten-free products,” he said.

Pulses, along with tapioca and rice, may allow a gluten-free product to have more of a clean label. If clean label is not a goal, formulators may have more options, he said.

“Modified starches definitely come into play here in terms of improving the quality of the gluten-free formulations,” he said.

Gluten-free whole grains

Other opportunities to improve nutritional profiles may come from gluten-free whole grains such as corn and rice.

Didion Milling has developed a whole grain corn flour. During the development stage, Didion reviewed the enzyme activity of whole grain corn flour, as increased fat content in whole grain products may lead to rancidity. Didion developed a process to deactivate these enzymes, which promotes shelf life.

Cargill, Minneapolis, offers MaizeWise whole grain corn flour as an alternative starch source that has a higher level of total antioxidant activity as compared to other grains such as rice and oats, said Ansui Xu, research and development scientist for Cargill.

Beneo, Inc., Morris Plains, N.J., offers whole grain rice flours that the company used in making gluten-free bread prototypes. Inulin was used to reach a level of 7.5 grams of fiber per serving in the bread.

SunOpta, Inc., Brampton, Ont., offers a SunOpta rice fiber 310 gluten-free ingredient that is greater than 90% dietary fiber and has a bland taste. Potential applications for rice fiber are baked foods, bread, cereal, cookies, crackers, meat, nutrition bars, snacks, chips, pasta, pet food, tortillas and beverages, according to SunOpta.

Potatoes, a gluten-free commodity, are a source for the PenNovo FR starch system from Penford Food Ingredients, Centennial, Colo. PenNovo FR has been shown to replace up to 50% of the solid fat in grain-based baked foods, including gluten-free applications, said Bryan Scherer, vice-president of research and development for the company. PenNovo FR may be used to replace shortening, butter, margarine and other high-fat inclusions such as cream cheese.

Even enzymes, and more than just amylase enzymes, may come into play when formulating gluten-free items.

“Currently there are enzymes used in gluten-free products, but in my personal opinion they can be used a lot more to better the texture and also (to lengthen) shelf life.” Ms. Klimczak of Bay State Milling said.