Woman reading chip label in grocery store aisle
Wheat, gums, emulsifiers and oils may ease the transition to non-bioengineered products.

Food companies looking to use non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. ingredients should know their path may lead to familiar items. The road may not be as rocky as feared. For example, all commercial wheat in the United States is non-bioengineered. Guar gum, cellulose gum and xanthan gum also may fit in the non-bioengineered category, and options arise in emulsifiers and oils as well.

Data released over the past few months show why food companies may consider introducing non-bioengineered products or to reformulate products to contain only non-bioengineered ingredients.

Mintel, a Chicago-based market research firm, in September released information showing 37% of Americans were interested in G.M.O.-free products, which compared to 22% for soy-free, 20% for nuts/peanut-free and 17% for egg-free.

Data from Innova Market Insights, Duiven, The Netherlands, found 4% of global food and drink product launches for the 12-month period ended in June had G.M.O.-free labeling. Among all global cereal product launches, 13% of breakfast cereals featured G.M.O.-free labeling. The percentages were 7.4% for snacks with G.M.O.-free labeling and 4.6% for bakery products with G.M.O.-free labeling.

Restaurant customers are other potential buyers of non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. products. Chicago-based Technomic, a source for food and food service industry data, intelligence and commentary, on Oct. 26 listed negative perceptions of G.M.O.s as one of its top 10 trends for the U.S. restaurant industry in 2016.

“Whatever the science says, many consumers have made up their minds: no genetic tinkering with their food,” Technomic said. “Some diners will gravitate to restaurants touting G.M.O.-free fare. Others will demand G.M.O. labeling on menus. That’s a big issue for the supply chain since many crops, such as soy fed to livestock, have been modified to boost productivity.”

Wheat is not one of those crops. Currently no commercially available bioengineered wheat is grown in the United States. MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kas., offers specialty
proteins and starches derived from non-bioengineered wheat.

“Unease about what some advocacy groups consider unknown safety risks and other possible ramifications have fueled debates over the acceptance and viability of G.M.O. products,” said David Whitmer, corporate director of quality, research and development, and innovation for MGP Ingredients. “This situation has had the potential to impact broader consumer perceptions, thus increasing demand for G.M.O.-free alternatives and promoting the use of package labeling to proclaim the difference.”

MGP Ingredients plans to distribute information about its non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. ingredients through print and on-line publicity initiatives, digital campaigns with direct outreach to customer partners, print and digital advertising, collateral support material, presence at trade shows, and facts available at www.mgpingredients.com.

Michael Buttshaw
Mike Buttshaw, v.p. of ingredients sales and marketing for MGP Ingredients.

“The all-natural and organic trends coincide with the non-G.M.O. buzz,” said Mike Buttshaw, vice-president of ingredients sales and marketing for MGP Ingredients. “Generally speaking, the millennials, as well as our ‘new seniors,’ are much more inclined to eat healthier, but include indulgence, too, in moderation.

“We expect the non-G.M.O. discussion to remain important for the foreseeable future. It generates good thoughts and ‘feelings’ around healthier
eating and living longer. G.M.O. and the idea of genetically modifying anything appears to have taken on an increasingly negative connotation and no longer is just an isolated topic. As a result, and conservatively speaking, I really don’t see this discussion topic about non-G.M.O. diminishing to any measurable degree over at least the next five years.”

TIC Gums, White Marsh, Md., has its own definition for non-G.M.O.: “A finished product derived from ingredients that are believed to contain no genetically modified organisms and no more than 0.9% material derived from genetically modified organisms resulting from adventitious contamination.” TIC Gums bases the definition from the labeling requirements of the European Commission, said Blair Brown, senior regulatory specialist for TIC Gums.

Gums in many cases are non-bioengineered, which might make them sound friendlier to consumers.

“With consumers more interested in learning what is going into their food, hopefully they will discover that many of the ingredients, while not being as recognizable as sugar, butter or flour, are in fact very natural,” said Steven Baker, senior food scientist for TIC Gums. “For example, guar gum may not be recognizable by 100% of the population, but with some research they will discover that it comes from the seeds of the guar plant. The seeds resemble split peas from a pea food. These seeds are washed, hydrated with water and finally dried into a fine powder. This process is similar for all seeds gums, such as fenugreek, tara gum and locust bean gum.”

Guar gum, cellulose gum and xanthan gum are the three most prominent gums in baked foods, he said.

“Similarly to most agricultural products, there can be versions that are genetically modified as well as versions that are non-G.M.O.,” Mr. Baker said. “Nearly all sources of guar gum are non-bioengineered and can be considered non-G.M.O. There are multiple sources and types of cellulose gum and xanthan gum. So it is best to check with your hydrocolloid supplier about their genetic status. Fortunately, there are non-G.M.O. versions of cellulose gum and xanthan gum commercially available.”

Non-bioengineered hydrocolloids may come from the sea. Carrageenan comes from red seaweed, and alginates come from brown seaweed, said Katherine Lutz, marketing manager for Cargill Texturizing Solutions.

Non-bioengineered hydrocolloids may replace starches based on bioengineered corn, Ms. Lutz said.

“Depending on the desired texture, food and beverage manufacturers who wish to avoid G.M. ingredients can choose from non-G.M. products such as pectin, carrageenan and locust bean gum to receive the same results,” she said.

Even such chemical sounding names as sodium stearoyl lactylate may work in non-bioengineered products. Corbion this past January added Emplex to its non-bioengineered emulsifier portfolio. It appears as sodium stearoyl lactylate on the ingredient list, said Jim Robertson, global product manager, emulsifiers, for Corbion.

Emplex has been shown to work in baked foods, pancakes, waffles, cereals, pastas, instant rice, desserts, icings, fillings, puddings, toppings, sugar confectioneries, powdered beverage mixes, creamers, cream liqueurs, dehydrated potatoes, snack dips, sauces, gravies, chewing gum, dietetic foods, and minced and diced canned meats.

“However, it is most popular in yeast-leavened bakery products,” Mr. Robertson said. “In baked foods, Emplex non-G.M.O. improves dough tolerances to processing and machinery variations, resulting in greater product volume and tighter crumb structure. It also increases crumb softness, extending product shelf life.”

When choosing oils, formulators may consider palm oil and sunflower oil not only as non-bioengineered options but also as alternatives to partially hydrogenated oils (phos). IOI Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., has developed more than 200 pho-free systems that offer functionality across a range of applications leveraging the versatility of palm oil.

Stratas Foods, Memphis, Tenn., in September 2014 developed non-bioengineered sunflower frying oil under the Sustain brand that is free of trans fat. It is formulated using a blend of mid-oleic and high-oleic sunflower oil. Then in October of this year, Stratas said it had received Non-GMO Project Verification for three of its products: Sustain, Frymax Sun Supreme and Frymax Sun Supreme without silicone.

Food companies may want to consider supply and price when working with sunflower oil. The U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 30 estimated the area planted for sunflowers in the United States this year at 1,682,000 acres, which compared to an estimate of 85,139,000 acres for soybeans.

“Sunflower oil is a good solution for food manufacturers looking to develop or reformulate products that are non-G.M.,” said Edwin van der Hoek, product line manager for Cargill Oils. “Because of that, we’re seeing a growing demand for sunflower oil. However, supply is keeping up with that demand so far, and prices have remained stable.”