Using gums in gluten-free foods is not like putting them in conventional products. Here’s what the formulator needs to know in this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A with Steven Baker, food scientist, TIC Gums, White Marsh, MD. Also, Greg Andon, the company’s president, describes the diverse sources of supply for gums.

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?

Steven Baker: Gums have always been an important ingredient in gluten-free baked goods. Gums’ ability to manage water and increase water-holding capacity drastically improve these products. Optimal usage of gums contributes to increased volume in breads and improved texture in breads and sweet goods.

The first thing product developers should know about gums in gluten-free items is that the usage levels are considerably higher when compared to conventional baked goods. For example, gums are generally used at levels around 0.1 to 0.3%, based on flour weight, for conventional breads. When switching to a gluten-free system, these levels are increased to 2 to 5%, based on flour weight, to achieve finished items with similar volumes and textural attributes. For gluten-free sweet goods such as cakes and muffins, the increase is less but still significant, with usage levels 2 to 3 times the level in conventional items.

The primary concern about using gums is that they are highly interactive with water, and the water in a formula most likely will need to be adjusted when adding gums. A good starting point is to add 5 to 6 parts of water for every part of gum added to your formulation.

TIC Gums has created a number of hydrocolloid blends specifically for use in gluten-free applications. For breads, the two most common requests are for more volume and increased consistency from loaf to loaf. Ticaloid GF 345 has been developed to produce finished products with higher volumes than xanthan gum alone. Ticaloid GF 377 has been developed to increase the consistency of the loaf shape and height when compared to xanthan gum.

For sweet goods such as muffins and cakes, gums contribute to batter consistency and stability resulting in a moister crumb with reduced breakdown of mass during chewdown (crumbliness). However, high gum usage can also result in a product that is too moist and sticky in the mouth. Ticaloid GF 313 has been formulated to provide maximum benefit of increased moisture and reduced breakdown of mass during chewdown without contributing to a wet or sticky texture.

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

Mr. Baker: The two biggest changes in gum usage during the past few years are contestant with trends in the overall food industry. Cost reduction is always a top priority, and gums can be an effective solution since they are highly functional at very low usage levels. Specific to gums, when guar gum prices increased dramatically in 2012, alternate gum solutions were formulated to keep raw material prices in check.

Clean-label is also a huge driver for gums usage in the bakery industry. Gums are an excellent option for clean-label solutions since the majority come from agricultural products which have been used in food for hundreds of years. For example, guar gum and locust bean gum come from seeds that have been cleaned and ground into a powder. Similarly, agar, sodium alginate and carrageenan are extracted from seaweed.

Since there is not a set definition of what is considered clean-label, our Gum Gurus are always available to work with customers to develop new gum blends based on their preferences.

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

Greg Andon: Because hydrocolloids come from agricultural sources, there will always be supply and demand factors that impact pricing and availability. Those factors are different for each gum, and in the case of guar gum, the demand from the energy industry increased far more quickly than the farming community could react.

While that sudden increase in demand was an unusual event, TIC Gums was able to help customers through the crisis by defining the texture and stability role guar gum plays in their finished product. It is the functionality of the guar customers really need, not the actual guar itself.

While no two hydrocolloids are exactly the same, by focusing on each customer’s specific texture and stability needs, we were able to find solutions to achieve the same consumer eating experience using different combinations of ingredients. That same approach can be used to address challenges that arise in other ingredient shortages, be they hydrocolloids or other replacement challenges, such as with sugars and fats. There will always be products that need to be replaced for one reason or another. It’s the Gum Gurus’ job to ensure our customers are able to navigate successfully through those reformulation challenges.

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?

Mr. Andon: When you look at the full breadth of our hydrocolloids offering, they come from around the world in the form of seeds, tree saps, seaweeds, roots and more. Each hydrocolloid has its own supply chain challenges, so it is difficult to give a single answer that covers all.

In general, knowing the growing region and the factors that impact supply is a common requirement to ensure supply. There is no substitute for being on the ground where the raw material is grown or harvested. Challenges are inevitable, and if we focus on the functionality of the hydrocolloid, we are almost always able to help customers’ navigate successfully through those challenges by offering alternatives that achieve the same goal.