Judging by consumer studies and manufacturer investments, the gluten-free category may affect the grain-based foods industry for years to come. The quest for ingredients that maintain acceptable texture, taste and mouthfeel in gluten-free products thus may continue as well.

The U.S. market for gluten-free foods and beverages experienced a compound annual growth rate of 30% from 2006 to 2010 and was a $2.6 billion market in 2010, according to the analysis “Gluten-free Foods and Beverages in the U.S., 3rd edition” released Feb. 2 by Packaged Facts.Growth rates will slow, according to Packaged Facts, but U.S. sales of gluten-free foods and beverages will exceed $5 billion by 2015.

“Many people are gluten-free out of necessity because they suffer from celiac disease or a food allergy,” the analysis said. “But a growing number are gluten-free by choice, as evidence emerges that this diet may treat medical conditions ranging from autism in children to rheumatoid arthritis in adults. Others find that living gluten-free makes them feel better.”

According to Packaged Facts, the No. 1 motivation for buying gluten-free products is that they are considered healthier than their conventional counterparts, but the health issue may be debatable. Many gluten-free products are made with white rice flour, tapioca, corn and potato starch, said Shelley Case, author of “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide.” When compared to enriched white flour and whole wheat flour, these alternatives may be lacking in protein, fiber, iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals, she said when speaking at the International Baking Industry Exposition in Las Vegas on Sept. 27, 2010.

Still, gluten-free sales growth may steam ahead. A Datamonitor report issued July 12, 2010, predicted the global gluten-free market will grow by $1.2 billion over five years and be worth over $4.3 billion. Datamonitor expects the U.S. market to make up 53% of the global gluten-free market by 2014.

At least two companies recently have invested in buildings for gluten-free production. Schar USA Inc., Lyndhurst, N.J., on Jan. 25 began construction of a 50,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in New Jersey. Beginning early in 2012 the dedicated gluten-free facility will play a role in the production of gluten-free food. Frozen bread is a possibility.

Bloomfield Farms, Bloomfield, Ky., now has a 15,000-square-foot plant that specializes in manufacturing gluten-free baking mixes. The company sells nine mixes for all-purpose baking: brownies, cakes, cornbread, cookies, loaf bread, muffins, pizza dough and pancakes and waffles.

“We make sure our products are not contaminated with gluten-containing wheat, barley, rye or oats,” said Sue Sutherland, president of Bloomfield Farms. “Instead, we use rice flour, corn meal, potato starch and other gluten-free ingredients as grain bases.”

Count sorghum as another gluten-free ingredient alternative. Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., in 2010 launched Harvest Pearl white sorghum and white whole grain flours.

“The popularity of gluten-free products has helped raise awareness for sorghum flour and other types of flours,” said Brook Carson, technical manager — specialty products for ADM. “Like many of the other grains and flours that are now getting attention, sorghum flour has unique characteristics that have been overlooked for a long time because wheat flour has been the standard.”

Sorghum flour may need assistance from other ingredients in gluten-free grain-based foods.

“Because sorghum does not contain gluten, there is no gluten matrix present to give the necessary structure required for baked goods,” Ms. Carson said. “A new gluten-like system must be created using flours, gums and starches to mimic the functionality of wheat flour.

“The water absorption changes with the addition of starches and gums, but sorghum itself also binds more water than wheat flour. Granulation plays an important role in functionality when using sorghum flour.”

Sorghum flours offer a gluten-free alternative that is more economical than specialty starches, Ms. Carson said. Grain sorghum is a significant crop in North America although traditionally it has been overlooked for food applications, he said.

“Color varieties of sorghum range from dark brown to red to white, with various benefits and flavors associated with each,” she said. “ADM’s white sorghum flour has a light color and neutral flavor.”

This year has seen at least one gluten-free ingredient system launch. Watson, Inc., West Haven, Conn., planned to introduce gluten-free mixes for bread and muffins March 6 at the American Society of Baking’s 2011 BakingTech in Chicago. Emulsifiers, eggs and gum replace the functionality of the gluten. The complete mixes shorten time to market, reduce R.&D. and material testing costs and eliminate the need to audit multiple vendors, according to Watson.

The gluten content of the mixes is less than 10 p.p.m., which meets the standards of the Celiac Spruce Association, a non-profit celiac support group based in Omaha, Neb. Watson collaborated with Fayrefield FoodTec Ltd., based in the United Kingdom, to develop the mixes.

“Using award-winning science from Fayrefield FoodTec, it is now possible to produce gluten-free breads and muffins that have the taste, texture and look of conventional bread,” Watson said.

Watson also has made available research on the gluten-free market and the opportunities it presents.

Last year Natural Products, Inc., Grinnell, Iowa, added Blue200 gluten-free whole egg replacer to its Scottsman’s Mill brand. Blue200 works in the same kinds of applications as the company’s Blue100 whole egg replacer, but Blue200 does not contain wheat gluten. Blue200 contains soy flour, tapioca starch, corn syrup solids and xanthan gum, said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager for NPI.

Other gluten-free ingredient alternatives have been on the market longer. Corn Products International, Westchester, Ill., offers Expandex, a modified tapioca starch.

National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, N.J., offers Homecraft GF gluten-free solutions for cookies, muffins, pancakes, waffles and other baked foods. The proprietary blends of rice and tapioca flours, often used with Novation functional native starches, allow producers to recreate the taste, texture, visual appeal and shelf life of gluten-containing standards, according to National Starch.

ConAgra Mills, Omaha, offers Eagle Mills gluten-free all-purpose multigrain flour for use in pan bread, tortillas, muffins, snacks, coatings and extruded cereal. The multigrain flour is a proprietary blend that includes ancient grains from ConAgra Mills.

Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, Iowa, uses corn starch in several of its gluten-free prototypes. Gluten-free cinnamon rolls include Pure-Dent B700 corn starch and Inscosity B656 food starch-modified. A gluten-free cookie flour replacement features sorghum flour, Pure-Dent B700 corn starch, Inscosity B656 food starch-modified and Instant Pure-Cote B792 food starch-modified.

Penford Food Ingredients Co., Centennial, Colo., in 2010 introduced PenTechGF, an ingredients system for gluten-free coatings and baking.

Arla Foods Ingredients amba, Viby, Denmark, uses its Nutrilac BK 7565, a functional milk protein, in gluten-free prototypes like pizza and baguettes. Miprodan 30, a functional milk protein with water-retention ability, also may be used. 

Market exists for allergen-free children’s products

The market for allergen-free children’s products may be growing. The prevalence of reported food allergy in the United States increased 18% among children under age 18 from 1997 to 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2007, about 3 million children under age 18 were reported to have a food or digestive allergy in the previous 12 months.

Health Canada also took notice of allergies this year by issuing new regulations on Feb. 14. The regulations “require additional labeling and strengthening the labeling requirements to require clearer language and the declaration of otherwise ‘hidden’ allergens, gluten sources and sulphites.” Health Canada gave industry until Aug. 4, 2012, to implement the new allergen labeling regulations.

According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a food allergy is a condition in which the immune system incorrectly identifies a food protein as a threat and attempts to protect the body against it by releasing chemicals into the blood, which results in the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, eight types of food account for more than 90% of allergic reactions. The eight types are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Among grain-based foods, milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and wheat often are used as ingredients. To create products free of any such allergen, manufacturers need to find alternative ingredients.

Archer Daniels Midland Co., Decatur, Ill., offers its ingredient line of dry (common) beans and pulses that are free of the eight major allergens, said Patricia DeMark, edible bean scientist for ADM. Pintos, chickpeas and black beans are types of legumes in the line. They are offered as whole dehydrated beans or ground into whole bean pieces, grits or powders. Potential grain-based food applications include gluten-free pasta, flat bread, extruded snacks, crackers and muffins.

The VegeFull cooked bean ingredients work well in combination with corn meal, rice flours, tapioca/potato starch, sorghum flours, and beans. They provide a natural source of vegetable protein, dietary fiber and micronutrients such as potassium, folate, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.

A 1:4:1 ratio of bean powder to water to vegetable oil slurry has been shown to replace egg and milk solids in a regular muffin, Ms. DeMark said. Formulators have had success in extruding 100% bean crisps for applications like all-natural particulate bars or cereal clusters. When working with VegeFull at over 15% of the total formula, formulators should provide additional liquids and be aware that they take about 5 minutes for full hydration.

“These dehydrated powders are typically 6% moisture, almost half the moisture level in many flours, so make-up moisture will nearly always be required,” Ms. DeMark said. “Another consideration is that VegeFull may eliminate or reduce the need for added gums and starches. Beans and pulses are tightly packed seeds — bundled fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates with a low level of fat — that are water-cooked, dried and may be ground to size.”

Natural Products, Inc., Grinnell, Iowa, offers ingredients made with one allergen, soy, that may be used to replace other allergens, such as eggs or dairy products, under its Scottsman’s Mill brand name. The company last year also added a Blue200 gluten-free whole egg replacer that works in the same kinds of applications as the company’s Blue100 whole egg replacer, but Blue200 does not contain wheat gluten.

Every ingredient in the Scottsman’s Mill line is designed to replace some other ingredient that is an allergen, said Jon Stratford, sales and marketing manager for NPI. Allergen statements from NPI reflect two things: the ingredient does not contain the allergen and the ingredient is processed without the allergen, he said.

Companies often use egg-replacing ingredients to reduce costs, but allergen-free may be another benefit.

“Our technology and the use of functional milk proteins also enables us to make egg- and gluten-,wheat-free cake formulations which naturally brings the allergen levels down to a minimum,” said Soren Rothbol Norgaard, technical manager and head of applications center bakery for Arla Foods Ingredients amba, Viby, Denmark. “The functional milk proteins can have various functionalities and thus can be tailored to mimic the functionality of gluten or egg, enabling our customers to develop high quality end product free of either of those allergens.”

Arla uses its Nutrilac BK-7818, a milk protein developed to deliver an elastic and pleasant crumb structure, in an egg-free and wheat-free brownie prototype.