Sir, I was very interested to read your piece about the incidence of high fat and sugar in free-from gluten foods (‘Retailers commit to making free-from ranges healthier,’ 14 May, p5).
Because gluten plays such a vital role in the texture or “crumb” of baked goods, replacing it can dramatically affect the quality of the end product. The quality of gluten-free breads tends to be inferior to wheat breads in terms of taste attributes, loaf volume, crumb texture, shelf life and staling. Fat and sugar do not mimic gluten functionality so they don’t replace the role of gluten, but there are other potential reasons for them to be included based on their functionality in specific products. For example, among the many important functions of fats in products is the improvement of flavour delivery of products and improvement to texture including reducing stickiness. Sugars are added to products to improve texture, generate colour and flavour, and improve shelf life.
The reformulation of products to create gluten-free products needs to address any compromise to sensory aspects and shelf life. Science is needed to understand the role of ingredients in foods so that when replacements are needed, such as gluten or indeed to reduce fat salt or sugar, manufacturers can create the correct functional role of the ingredient as well as flavour so that the consumer is happy with the result.
Persis Subramaniam, senior consultant, nutrition & product development, Leatherhead Food Research