A closer look at gluten-free in 2020

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein that some people find hard to digest. It is found in all varieties of wheat, rye and barley, including the rye/ wheat hybrid triticale. 

It is estimated that 1-2% of the population have coeliac disease (an autoimmune form of gluten intolerance), up to 6% have what has been termed non-coeliac gluten intolerance and 0.2-0.4% have a wheat allergy. These conditions can cause a range of symptoms from discomfort and bloating to serious digestive problems, and may impact on other organs including the brain. As there is no treatment, following a strict gluten-free diet is a lifelong necessity for people with celiac disease and those who are intolerant or sensitive to gluten if they want to avoid symptoms. 

Different reasons for going GF

Increased focus on health and wellbeing has bred a generation of savvy consumers who appreciate the link between gutand digestive health, its impact on overall mental and onphysical fitness.Amongst this is the belief that following a gluten-free or gluten reducing diet may reap benefits such as increased energy, reduced bloating, and better overall digestive health, regardless of whether you have a diagnosed coeliac or a wheat intolerance. 22% of UK consumers who have experienced a gastrointestinal issue agree they have managed their GI issues through diet. (Mintel 2019)

Mintel’s January 2020 report ‘Allergies and intolerances: free from dieting trends’ recommends a focus on delivering products that support digestive health, with the opportunity to link gluten-free products with this trend. An associated diet which has seen a recent growth in popularity is the FODMAP-free or low FODMAP diet (Fermentable Oligo-, Di- and Mono-saccharides, and Polyols).

Originating in Australia where as reported by Mintel, 39% of new product launches contained a reference to Fodmapsend 2014- end 2019, the diet is now growing in popularity in the UK.  Someone who is sensitive to FODMAPs is reacting to the type of carbohydrate found in wheat, barley, and rye, as opposed the protein (gluten). However, people may be sensitive to both. Often if a gluten-free diet does not resolve symptoms, a low FODMAP diet may be the next step.

The rise of gluten free

Thanks in part to this consumer focus on digestive health/ gluten-free as a lifestyle choice, and in part due to the reported increase of food allergies, the share of food product launches with a gluten-free claim has continued to rise. As much as 19% of all new food product launches in 2019 were gluten-free, from cakes and snacks, to cereals and pasta.

Connection to clean label

With food allergies reportedly on the rise, and some high profile examples of non-labelled ingredients having some very serious ramifications there are likely to be requirements for better and clearer labelling in food and drink – both from regulatory demands and consumer expectations.

The importance of clean label – both in on shelf products and on menus, has never been greater. In fact according to Mintel, 35% of UK consumers would be interested in seeing allergy information (e.g. gluten free, contains nuts etc) on food and drink menus.

Non-gluten alternatives

There are a huge number of options available when it comes to gluten-free alternatives to wheat (provided they are processed in a gluten-free environment).

The risk of cross contamination

While all of the above are naturally gluten free, if they are be milled where wheat flour is also milled then they are likely to be cross-contaminated and can no longer be classified as gluten-free. Cross contamination can happen because wheat flour is in the atmosphere or traces of it remain in storage containers. This is why oats are not always labelled as gluten-free.

The term ‘gluten free’ is covered by law and can only be used on foods which contain 20 parts per million (ppm) or less of gluten.

While there is currently a high level of trust in the label ‘gluten-free’, cases of contamination may begin to erodeconsumers’ confidence in it. For example, according to a study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, some 32% of restaurant foods labelled gluten-free contain gluten, likely due to the use of the same cooking pots for both gluten-free and non-gluten free foods.

Dedicated gluten free production

Bowman Ingredients are experts in creating gluten-free coatings, from breadcrumbs, breaders and matters to marinades. We were the first business in the UK to run a dedicated gluten-free factory, ensuring there is no chance of cross contamination. If you are looking to develop new products for retail or foodservice to cater to a gluten-free or FODMAP-free diet talk to us. Our New Product Development team are knowledgeable in a wide variety of gluten-free grains and can work with you to develop the exact taste and texture of coating you desire.