An offbeat way to describe an upbeat outlook for the flour business was recently offered by a milling executive. While suggesting prospects maybe were not good for white flour sales growth in 2011, the miller suggested the industry outlook was enhanced not only by strong demand for whole wheat flour but also for value-added specialty milled products from grains other than wheat. In other words, gluten-free grains.

Milling is not alone in the grain-based foods sector in looking to capitalize on the continuing and perhaps rising popularity of gluten-free dieting. The Kellogg Co. in June will begin offering gluten-free Rice Krispies (replacing the barley malt in the original formula) and General Mills, Inc. promotes a gluten-free product portfolio on its web site.

Adapting to the gluten-free fad has not been nearly as easy for baking companies. Replacing the barley malt in Rice Krispies, regardless of how difficult it may be, presumably does not match the trouble of replacing the wheat flour in bread or cake. And challenges for bakers extend far beyond formulations, particularly in meeting the needs of consumers with celiac disease. Still, bakers would be prudent to continue looking deeply into ways they may be able to satisfy gluten-free dieters’ hunger for traditional and perhaps new age baked foods, while joining in the push for whole wheat products.