The gluten-free boom has sparked incentive to innovate in functional flours, says the president of food consultancy firm Best Vantage.
Daniel Best said functional flours that helped texture, processing and nutrition in gluten-free grain-based foods held huge promise.
“One of the things we’re advocating in gluten-free is you better use an enriched flour if the category is to thrive,” he told attendees at a conference held at last month’s IFT.
Use of tapioca starch and xanthan gum to replace the gelling and film-forming properties in gluten-free foods; blue corn and sorghum to increase the antioxidant content; or nuts to add texture and flavor were just a few examples.
There was opportunity to develop functional flours in two ways – by choosing specific components from other food sources to include or by breeding and further processing the flours.
Caution! Functional flours need a good narrative
However, he said use of functional flours in gluten-free remained in early stages and so manufacturers had to focus on several things to guarantee success.
Firstly, a “compelling narrative” was vital, he said. “One of the problems with ancient grains is that we risk losing the compelling story. There’s been a lot of emphasis on using new grains like teff and amaranth, and it started off with a compelling narrative, but where are the documentable benefits? … If you’re going to put teff into a product, come up with a good narrative.”
Documentable and tangible consumer benefits were extremely important, he said, particularly in terms of communicating nutritional, functional, performance or economic benefits.
It helped, he said, to have governmental or regulatory validation. “One of the best things that happened with gluten-free was when the federal government came up with a definition,” he said.
In addition, companies needed scientific validation, he said. “You need a verifiable outcome. I think it’s going to be possible with pulses, oils and nuts.”
Gluten-free, GMO, wheat belly – take them as a good thing
Best said that there had been a huge number of trends shaping the bakery segment, from gluten-free and wheat belly, to non-GMO and the Paleo diet. But, he said, manufacturers should not be scared off by these ‘narratives’; rather ride on them.
“Every time we see a new narrative come up, we should see it as a new opportunity... These narratives stimulate innovation; they force us to change how we look at our food supply; they force us to approach product innovation in new and innovative ways. Such narratives serve as the engines of food and beverage innovation,” he said.
Best Vantage had identified sodium, high fiber and whole grain as strong trending narratives that could be tapped into in addition to gluten-free.