Food science expertise helps create gluten-free flour

Pilling Foods

With their new product –a gluten-free flour replacement – Pilling Foods is establishing themselves as innovators in the Canadian food market.

And with the help of food science experts at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, individuals with gluten-restriction diets will now have a wider variety of baking options.

“We wanted to give people more cooking flexibility and overcome the difficulties that baking with alternative flours can have,” says Pilling Foods’ Sean Aguiar.

The product, developed with the help of the research team, is called Good Eats: Bakers Blends Complete Flour Replacement, and is available in regular and chocolate flavour. It is both gluten-free, non-GMO and touts as being a good source of fibre.

The replacement flour can be used as a 1:1 baking flour replacement in a wide variety of recipes without the need for additional ingredients to achieve identical results to standard wheat flour, says Aguiar.

Based in Fergus, Ont., Pilling Foods is a health and natural-food wholesale company, providing high-quality, gluten-free, non-GMO and organic flours, seeds and baking ingredients. The company is also certified by the Canadian Celiac Association and is a dedicated gluten-free facility.

They approached the NC research team to collaborate in formulating a flour replacement blend that would be “unique and versatile,” yet easy to work with and produce a flavourful dish.

While the experts at the CFWI Innovation Centre have worked with gluten-free flour previously, the challenge on this project was to develop a 1:1 replacement, says Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, senior food scientist at the Centre.

“The unique development of gluten is key for structural and textural characteristics of baked goods,” she explains. “Understanding the functionality of gluten-free starches and evaluating how they can be complementary and synergistic to give similar results as gluten is very challenging.”

After identifying key ingredients and working within food safety and quality parameters, the research team took its formulations to the lab kitchens at the College’s culinary institute to evaluate the gelatinization temperature and the gel strength of different starches.

“The functionality and properties of various starches were evaluated, and then tested in a variety of baked goods,” adds Vega-Lugo.

It was a process that allowed Pilling to help develop and refine their ideas in creating an innovative product.

“We were beyond excited when they presented their results … it exceeded our expectations,” says Aguiar. “The research team was very knowledgeable and guided us through the development process. It was an amazing experience.”

The process also allowed Kyler Schwind, a student in NC’s Culinary Innovation and Food Technology program, to gain a greater understanding of developing a product that is gaining steam in the marketplace.

“Having a more in-depth knowledge on gluten-free flour creation, and functional ingredients has allowed me to expand my area of potential careers,” says Schwind, a research assistant with the CFWI Innovation Centre who worked on the project.

“Every product I work on in the Innovation Centre forces me to learn and understand a new aspect of food,” he adds. “Having this hands-on education has definitely broadened my food science knowledge.”

Both Good Eats: Bakers Blends Complete Flour Replacement products are available at Sobeys grocery store, Winners, Marshalls, Homesense and Pilling’s online store.

“Thanks to the wonderful staff and students of the CFWI Innovation team we were able to bring our idea to life and produce a product that would allow us to better serve our consumers,” adds Aguiar.

The recipe development project was funded by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) through a 20-hour interactive visit, a program that’s advantageous for evaluating the viability of potential larger projects and to help de-risk investments for clients.

This is just one example of innovation from the College’s CFWI Innovation Centre, which offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes. To read more about what the Centre offers, visit the website.