Plant protein alliance to improve structure and taste of gluten-free bread

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Stephen Barnes)
(Image: Getty/Stephen Barnes)

Related tags Coeliac disease Gluten-free baked goods plant protein

Coeliac UK and Innovate UK are helping fund research to develop three new plant proteins for gluten-free bread, which Nandi Proteins chairman Neil Crabb says could improve its taste and texture.

Innovate UK and Coeliac UK have contributed £180,697 (€206,400) towards a £250,000 research project aimed at developing gluten replacements from UK-grown crops.

The Nandi Proteins-led consortium includes Genius Foods, ingredients business AB Mauri, agronomy firm Agrii, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

“The challenge [with gluten-free bread] is that the current solutions lead to a problem – they either don’t taste as good or don’t perform as well [as gluten bread],” ​Nandi Proteins’ chairman Neil Crabb told FoodNavigator.

By improving the ingredients used in gluten-free bread, it is expected manufacturers will be encouraged to extend their gluten-free ranges.

Clean label ingredients

The project will focus on three ingredients currently underused by the food industry: faba beans, rapeseed by-products, and naked oats – which naturally thresh free from the husk during harvest.

“Essentially, we are taking potentially lower cost by-products that currently are not efficiently used, and making a high value ingredient from them that solves the coeliac problem, but equally helps reduce food waste as part of the process,” ​said Crabb.

In addition, by using natural ingredients, gluten-free bread manufacturers may be able to reduce the need for E number additives. “There is a question whether vegetable protein ingredients should have a wider role than they [currently] do in product formulation,” ​explained Crabb.

£750k boost to 'unlock gluten-free challenges'

The £180,697 grant is part of a larger £750,000 investment from Coeliac UK and Innovate UK into research that “unlocks gluten free challenges”.

The charity and government partnership is also funding research in coeliac disease diagnosis, as well as advancements in software for the ongoing management of the disease. 

The science

Nandi Proteins will use its proprietary technology to create protein concentrates from the aforementioned raw materials supplied by Agrii.

“Nandi’s patented technology is based on the knowledge that the functional properties of proteins change when they unfold, or ‘denature’,” ​Nandi explained in a statement. “Controlled denaturation can be used to deliberately change and control the protein functionality as an ingredient.”

Once Nandi has ‘functionalised’ the proteins – which involves heat treating them in a measured fashion in order to improve their properties along particular parameters – Genius Foods and AB Mauri will conduct ingredient testing, before adapting their bread formulations and assessing commercial feasibility.

‘The gluten-free market is here to stay’

The research by Nandi and its partners on innovative gluten-free ingredients will keep the UK ahead in the food industry’s expansion into gluten-free, Coeliac UK chief executive Sarah Sleet told FoodNavigator.

“The gluten-free market has exploded over the last 20 years driven by increasing numbers of people diagnosed with coeliac disease and others avoiding gluten for medical reasons.

“One in 100 people in the UK have coeliac disease although only 30% of them are diagnosed at the moment. However, diagnosis is on the rise and as the only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet, the gluten-free market is here to stay,” ​she continued.

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