Stable pricing and dependable availability are advantages that cellulose gums bring to bakery formulating, including gluten-free products. In this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A, Laurie Kronenberg, new product leader, food and beverage, and Jenna Derhammer, food scientist, both with Ashland Specialty Ingredients, Wilmington, DE, describe these multifunctional ingredients.

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?

Jenna Derhammer: We have looked at our products and other hydrocolloids and have found that Benecel modified cellulose is quite good in gluten-free applications at mimicking the functionality of gluten. Benecel modified cellulose forms thermally reversible gels so that when bread is baking, the Benecel modified cellulose helps to structure the bread before the starches have a chance to gel enabling increased volume. Because the gel reverses back to a viscous liquid, this can help to give a soft crumb and texture in the finished bread.

Adding Benecel modified cellulose to a gluten-free bread recipe is quite simple — just add it to the dry ingredients and process normally. Formulators are looking for longer shelf life, soft texture, good volume and even crumb structure. We found that adding Benecel modified cellulose to gluten-free bread helps to increase bread height, contributes to softness, and it even slows the rate of retrogradation (a large contributor to staling).

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

Laurie Kronenberg: Price volatility in the gums segment has people looking for stable sources. Our products are based on cellulose, which is an extremely abundant resource.

Everyone in the food industry, including bakers, is looking for ingredients to make their product “better” and more cost effective. Gums, like those made by Ashland, allow more water to be incorporated into the system resulting in higher yields and extended shelf life by improving the texture. At a usage level of under 1%, a formulator gets significant functionality for a low cost in use with gums.


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

Ms. Kronenberg: In general, if you look at historical pricing of gums, those based on raw materials that can be affected by poor growing conditions and are limited in availability are more volatile. Trade laws and poor rainy seasons, among a variety of other influences, can contribute to fluctuations in global raw material pricing.

Guar was a unique situation in that another industry found a use for guar that changed the supply-and-demand curve. Innovation is always occurring across all industries, so theoretically this could happen with any ingredient. The good news is that Ashland has been able to consistently supply the industry since the 1950s since our cellulose-based products can be interchangeable with most gums as we support such a broad range of applications. This gives our customers piece of mind in terms of supply.

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?

Ms. Derhammer: The good news for Ashland is that cotton linters and wood pulp are plentiful, and we have many options for our starting material for our cellulose-based products. This has kept our cellulose gums and modified-cellulose gums stable in price over the years.