When thinking of problematic gluten-free formulations, bread may come to mind first since it traditionally is baked with gluten-containing wheat flour as the primary ingredient. Yet other products, even those outside the baked foods category, often contain wheat that needs to be replaced to achieve gluten-free status.
“You can stumble your way into gluten in places you wouldn’t probably think,” said Rachel Cheatham, Ph.D., founder and chief executive officer of Foodscape Group, L.L.C., a Chicago-based company that serves as a “navigation partner” for its client companies involved in the food industry.
Soy sauce, seasonings and mixes, meatballs and some dairy products are examples.
“It is fairly common to have gluten in seasonings and mixes used for grain-based foods,” said AnnMarie Kraszewski, lab manager, industrial division for Wixon, Inc., St. Francis, Wis. “For instance, Asian flavor profiles tend to use soy sauce powders with wheat.”
“These flour blends include mixtures of gluten-free grain flours and ancient grains, and vegetable proteins and vegetable protein isolates are used in some mixes,” she said. “If dairy is allowed, whey protein powder and whey protein isolates are often added to the mix. These gluten-free flour mixes mimic the functionality of gluten with added gums and starches.”
Soy sauce normally contains a blend of soybeans and wheat, according to Kikkoman Sales USA, San Francisco. Wheat is used in traditionally brewed Japanese soy sauce for both flavor and functionality to provide full-bodied, umami-rich flavor, and it also acts as an agent in the fermentation process, said Yusuke Hiraiwa, national industrial sales/R.&D. manager for Kikkoman Sales USA.
Kikkoman is able to offer a gluten-free soy sauce (liquid and dehydrated) that contains soybeans but no wheat. Fermentation that follows the company’s centuries-old tradition allows the soy sauce to develop the expected umami flavor, according to the company.
Offering a gluten-free tamari soy sauce is not as difficult. In Japan, tamari soy sauce is similar to traditional soy sauce but with a higher ratio of soybeans to wheat, according to Kikkoman.
Kikkoman’s gluten-free tamari soy sauce is made with water, soybeans, salt and sugar.
“Like all Kikkoman soy sauces, gluten-free tamari soy sauce is fermented and aged for several months to produce the full complement of aromas, alcohols, organic esters and other chemical constituents that give traditionally brewed tamari soy sauce its rich, sweet-savory fingerprint,” Mr. Hiraiwa said. “The umami taste is still strong, which makes Kikkoman gluten-free tamari soy sauce a great flavor enhancer for complementing other ingredients.”
Soy sauce has been shown to work as a flavor enhancer, salt replacer and precursor for reaction flavors, he said.
“Gluten-free tamari soy sauce can be used in the same fashion as regular soy sauce or tamari in any application where gluten is a concern,” Mr. Hiraiwa said. “Umami powder enhances and rounds out flavors in soups, sauces, dressings, dips, condiments and much more — Asian and beyond.”
Ice cream, cheese spread, chocolate products, soup mixes, nutrition bars and non-dairy creamers all may contain gluten, said Steve Peirce, president of Ribus, Inc., St. Louis.
“Gluten may also be in caramel coloring, citric acid, emulsifiers, maltodextrin, mono- and di-glycerides, and spices,” he said. “Because of the inclusion of wheat or gluten in these various food ingredients, consumers currently have to be extra vigilant to ensure their diet is gluten-free.
“Many companies have turned to alternative sources for many of these ingredients. Ribus produces rice-based alternatives to emulsifiers, maltodextrin, mono- and di-glycerides and dusting agents for candy and fruit, all of which are gluten-free.”
Dr. Cheatham said she expects the gluten-free market to last.
“Maybe it will never resume that off-the-chart rate of growth that we saw when it first really started, but I think that it’s here to stay,” Dr. Cheatham said
Packaged Facts, Baltimore, released “Gluten-Free Foods in the U.S., 6th Edition” last year. Packaged Facts projects all-channel sales of gluten-free foods in the nine categories it analyzed to go over $2 billion in 2020, which would be up nearly $400 million from 2015.