In gluten-free baked foods, corn starch may provide such benefits as adding texture, increasing dough and batter viscosity, and improving cell structure and moisture retention.

While starch selection remains pivotal when formulating gluten-free products, innovation opportunities with starches exist in other product categories as well. Reducing additives and preservatives in poultry is one possibility. Reducing calories and sugar in products destined for Mexico is another.

Research conducted at Texas A&M University and at the Beneo Technology Center, Morris Plains, N.J., examined how Beneo’s Remyline AX-DR rice starch may work as an alternative to other starches in poultry products, for example. When compared to modified corn starch, rice starch improved yield after injecting and tumbling, yield after cooking, and yield after thawing and heating just as well. A sensory test involving 50 volunteers found no differences in taste, tenderness, juiciness or appearance.

Rice starch may reduce the need for additives and preservatives in poultry, too.

“Rice starch has a low gelatinization temperature of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit),” said Olivier Chevalier, business development manager of meat applications for Beneo. “Once the meat loses its water during cooking, the starch is able to bind with the water. Thus, rice starch helps poultry manufacturers to get juicier in phosphate-free meat products.”

When rice starch such as Remyline AX-DR is injected into poultry or added during tumbling, the brine that contains the starch disperses evenly throughout the meat, creating a natural, fibrous structure and taste, according to Beneo. The even dispersal ensures no gel pockets or “tiger stripes” are visible in the end product.

“Gel pocket and tiger stripes are describing the same phenomenon,” Mr. Chevalier said. “While people in the meat sector call it tiger stripes, we also use the term gel pocket to help people outside the industry to understand better. They are formed by an accumulation of starch granules between the meat fibers. During cooking the starch swells and a gel pocket is formed because of the accumulation of the starch at that place.”

Such problems may be avoided with rice starch because of its small granule size.

Opportunities south of the border

Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., is a longtime supplier of corn-based starches. The company expanded its starch portfolio by acquiring Penford Corp., a supplier of specialty ingredients, including potato-based starches. Ingredion now sees opportunities in Mexico, which has enacted sales taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages and processed food.

“These new obesity laws and taxes that came in about 18 months ago have really set the scene to grow specialty products, and what’s interesting for us is that we’ve been able to come up with some of our specialty starch applications that make yogurt more creamy or more crunchy,” said Ilene Gordon, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Ingredion, in a July 30 earnings call. “So, texture has become important. And also what’s become important in Mexico, we call it our ‘save money’ focus, where we are able to substitute starch for oil and have applications that actually help our customers deliver value to their consumers in a more cost-effective way.”

Rice starch may improve yield in poultry products and reduce the need for additives and preservatives.

Ingredion’s formulation science approach and Consumer-Centricity design directly connect consumers’ unique eating and drinking experiences with signature textures that differentiates customer’s products and drives better loyalty, said Mary Lynne V. Shafer, global marketing director, texture.

“Starches are the backbone of Ingredion’s texture portfolio, and they have a key role in building back texture if fat, sugar or calories are removed, transforming the texture into a whole new eating experience or simply cleaning up the label,” she said.

Gluten-free still going strong

In the United States, the gluten-free category continues to grow. Household penetration of gluten-free products in the United States reached 46% in 2014, up from 29% in 2006, according to the Natural Marketing Institute, based in Harleysville, Pa.

“The big push we’ve had recently is for gluten-free because our corn starches are gluten-free,” said Tonya Armstrong, senior applications scientist, technical service, Grain Processing Corp., Muscatine, Iowa. “We’ve done a lot of work in the gluten-free bakery area with three of our starches and have good success with those starches.”

Pure-Dent B700, an unmodified starch, works as part of the flour replacement system and gives a nice texture to baked foods, she said. Inscosity B656, a modified pre-gelatinized starch, increases dough and batter viscosity, improves cell structure and moisture retention. Instant Pure-Cote B792, a modified pre-gelatinized film-forming starch, helps improve the chewiness in cookies and machinability in dough.

Work continues on gluten-free bread.

“We finished doing a gluten-free bread formula that’s gone over very well because breads are more difficult to formulate,” Ms. Armstrong said. “There are still improvements that need to be made in that area. We’ve had a lot of requests for gluten-free bread and roll formulations.”

Some gluten-free bread products need better volume and cell structure with a less gummy texture, she said.

“When you’ve got all those starches and gums in there to replace the flour, it tends to make a gummy baked good,” Ms. Armstrong said.

Grain Processing Corp.’s starches, which are based on dent corn, tend to process better than waxy maize starches, she said. The faster processing time may lead to lower production time. Pure-Gel starches hydrate quicker than many other starches, Ms. Armstrong said. They have been shown to work in sugar-free and no-sugar-added applications.

“When I’ve done processing with different polyols such as maltitol and sorbitol, it seems like you have to cook the formulation to a higher temperature to get the starches cooked out,” Ms. Armstrong said.

For another corn starch innovation, London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. recently developed a proprietary technique for processing native corn starch, which led to the launch of its Claria line of clean label starches last year. Claria starches show tolerance to shear, heat and acid, even under extreme conditions like UHT and homogenization.