National Starch brings pre-gelatinised flour to Europe

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: National starch, Food, Flour

National Starch introduced an extension to its Homecraft range of
functional flours to the European market at FIE this year called
Express 760, aimed at building viscosity and texture in instant and
ready-to-heat foods.

The company's main message at the London trade show focused around texture, and its mission is to enable manufacturers to make processed food products that have the same texture as home- or restaurant-made foods. The new offering, which was unveiled in the US at the Research Chefs Association conference a year ago, is described as a pre-gelatinised functional flour derived from wheat, that gives viscosity in a variety of foods designed for cold water, reconstitution or microwave cooking. Applications include instant soups, sauces, pancake mixes, batters and gravies. The texture is said to be smooth and pourable, and it has an opaque appearance and a mouthfeel typical of flour. "Consumers are often let down by processed foods, as they are not the quality they expect at a restaurant or at home,"​ Terry Thomas, divisional VP of National Starch Food Innovation told FoodNavigator.com at the trade show. The ready meals market in Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain is worth €8.4bn, representing growth of five per cent on last year, according to Mintel. The analyst predicts a further 18 per cent sales hike by 2011 to reach €9.9bn. When you look at the UK ready meals market - the largest in Europe - significant improvement have been made since the earliest offerings. But there is still room for improvement, and the company is aiming to gain an understanding of consumers and the gaps in catering to what they want, and develop a texture tool box to fix this. Other benefits of Homecraft Express 760 communicated by the company are batch-to-back consistency. Seasonal crop variations in wheat can mean manufacturers using traditional flours, on the other hand, might have to reformulate products. No step changes are required in using the ingredient, it has a neutral flavour profile, and a matches clean-label demands since it can just be described as a wheat flour. In addition to building its ingredient offering, National Starch is seeking to change the language around texture. Starch is the primary backbone for texturising in 40 per cent of foods. "We want to make starch more sexy​," said Thomas. Whereas previously one would have talked about "the viscosifying power of a starch",​ for instance, the company now talks of "the texturising power of a solution".​ National Starch is also seeking build on its existing viscosifiers and thickeners to incorporate new attributes around texture. Beyond engaging over texture, National Starch has also made material investments to advance its capabilities. It has established a food creation centre in Hamburg, Germany, and also has a texture centre in New Jersey, USA. National Starch is a global company, but having these two centres helps it cater to local tastes. "We need to capture local tastes and textures, even within Europe." ​ Others ingredients in the Homecraft range include Homecraft Gold, which is said to give a luxurious twist to the texture of soups, sauces and ready meals. Homecraft Create 765 claims to be the first wheat flour to offer textural stability through as many as twelve freeze/thaw cycles.

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