Cellulose gums have been earning more use in baked foods recently. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Dan Inman, director of R&D, J. Rettenmaier USA LP, Schoolcraft, MI, how and why they improve gas retention, finished product volume and moisture control.

Baking & Snack: With all the market attention to gluten-free baked goods, how can bakers use your gums to improve such products? What do they need to know about formulating gluten-free items with gums? What are the chief concerns and how are they addressed? What gum-based ingredient systems do you offer for this category?

Dan Inman: Gluten development is not as important for cookies as it is for bread, so gluten-free flours can be substituted in cookies with very similar results.

Breads, and other types of yeast-raised doughs, need gluten development for strength and gas-retaining ability that produces a light and airy interior structure and a moist, flexible crumb. In addition to replacing the wheat flour with gluten-free flour, other ingredients can hold gas. These products include egg whites, hydrocolloids and functional celluloses.

Bread is perhaps the most challenging gluten-free baked product to make because gluten provides so much structure and flexibility. A combination of gluten-free flours with gas-retention ingredients can be used to create a loaf with good volume, softness and texture.

Eggs can also be used as a binder in gluten-free baking, enhancing texture and helping set the structure of the final product. A wide variety of gluten-free flours and starches can be used in combination to produce high-quality bakery products. Typically, white rice flour and starches make up the bulk of the flour replacement.

One of the biggest challenges with gluten-free bakery products is the proper hydration of all of the ingredients and then properly baking-out this high-moisture system. The use of nuts ground into a fine flour is also very popular, but could introduce yet another allergen.

Besides the obvious of providing additional fiber in the diet, the addition of Vitacel Insoluble Dietary Fiber improves moisture retention; interrupts the starch molecules, which will decrease staling; increases structure with a fiber networking with the starch and protein molecules; and reduces calories.

The addition of Vivapur Functional Cellulose Gums will improve gas retention, finished product volume and moisture retention.

All of our Vitacel and Vivapur products are gluten-free (less than 20 ppm gluten).

Looking beyond gluten-free, what is the biggest change in use of gums by bakers during the past few years?

The use of hydrocolloids in bakery products has increased over the past few years. The addition of hydrocolloids helps to retain moistness in finished baked products. With this increased moistness, the preservative system used in the product must be capable of handling the increase of moisture and the potential for increased shelf life. Most hydrocolloids are a product from nature. As a result, there are a number of conditions that could affect the size of the harvest.

Large industrial applications that may also find benefits with the use of hydrocolloids could also affect the availability and/or price of the product. These dramatic changes in supply cause a shift from the use of one hydrocolloid to another.

Guar prices seem to be returning to earth. Do you see anything like this happening with other gums and hydrocolloids? Why?

The base ingredient for our Vivapur Functional Cellulose Gums is cellulose. Cellulose is the most abundant organic compound on Earth, a renewable resource in excess of 100 billion tons per year. This abundance helps us maintain supply and helps to keep prices more stable than other functional hydrocolloid products. We have global sourcing for 23 production facilities located in the US, Europe, Russia, India and Mexico. The bulk of our business operates off of long-term contracts.

Where are your gum and hydrocolloid ingredients sourced? What is your company doing to assure supply? Are there any sustainability issues or benefits with current gums and hydrocolloids that bakery users should know about?

As the world’s largest manufacturer of insoluble fiber-based products, J. Rettenmaier has three research and development laboratories (US, Germany and India). These research laboratories are constantly developing new food applications with Vivapur Functional Celluloses and Vitacel Dietary Fibers for specific customer applications as well as new product trends.