KANSAS CITY — While sales of products linked to the keto diet are surging, alternative flours are providing the fuel for successful formulation. Almond-based flours lead the way in nut-based flours. Ardent Mills, Denver, has developed a grain-based, net-carb flour blend that works as well.

US sales of keto-differentiated bread and baked foods rose 23% in the 52-week period ended Aug. 8 when compared with the previous 52-week period and 53% when compared with the same period two years ago, according to SPINS data released at Natural Products Expo East in September. Sales of keto-differentiated chips, pretzels and snacks were up 15% from a year ago and 31% from two years ago. Keto-eligible products include products that are low/no sugar and have fewer carbohydrates, according to SPINS.

Potential applications for Ardent Mills’ net-carb flour blend include bread, pizza crust, tortillas, crackers and muffins.

“When it comes to using our net-carb flour blend, it’s important to note that labeling and claims are ultimately up to the baker or manufacturer as results may vary based on how the baker or manufacturer uses the blend,” said Amanda Pedersen, product marketing manager at Ardent Mills. “Our blend is certified by the Paleo Foundation, which is a good source for many keto-friendly definitions.”

Ardent Mills subtracts fiber from the total number of carbohydrates in a product to determine net carbohydrates.

“By definition, net carbs refer to the amount of carbohydrates able to be absorbed by the body, including both simple and complex carbs,” Ms. Pedersen said. “While simple carbs contain one or two sugar units, complex carbs contain a multitude of sugar units, primarily found in grains and starchy vegetables like potatoes.”

Few carbohydrates in almonds

A serving of almond flour provides 163 calories, 6 grams of protein, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber, said Laurie Colin, senior technical business development manager for the Blue Diamond Almonds Global Ingredients Division, Sacramento, Calif.

“Since the basis of the ketogenic diet is to keep one’s body in a state of ketosis, a process that occurs when the body burns fat and produces ketones when it does not have enough carbohydrates to burn for fuel, no more than 50 grams of carbohydrates should be consumed per day,” she said.

In a keto-friendly flour blend, almond flour provides flavor and monounsaturated fats, she said. A desired texture may range from tender and chewy to crispy and crunchy.

“Formulators have the ability to reduce or bind moisture in blends or bake at different temperatures to achieve a desired texture when working with almond flour,” she said.

The versatility of almond flour, when combined with keto-friendly blends, allows for the properly formulated product to rise without falling during the baking process, she said.

“Mintel reports that the number of new food and drink launches in the US being labeled and marketed as keto have doubled in the past year, accounting for 2.3% of food and beverage launches,” Ms. Colin said. “We are noticing that global consumers are interested in, and willing to spend more on, products labeled as keto because consumers often recognize it as a healthier option.”

Denver-based Cappello’s incorporates almond flour into frozen pizzas that are keto certified. The company also sells pasta and cookie dough items that contain almond flour.

“Almond flour has traditionally been a standout ingredient in the majority of Cappello’s products from our original pasta line to our newest innovations,” said Ben Frohlichstein, co-founder and co-chief executive officer. “We are focused on making options with simple, real food ingredients, and almond flour has proven to be nutrient-dense and packed with healthy fats, fiber and protein. We also like to use almond flour as we feel that almonds give us the closest texture and taste to conventional pizza as possible, meaning that our customers never have to compromise nutrition for taste.”

The company recently added turnips as an ingredient in pizza crust.

“We use the turnips as a component of the crust instead of as a topper, which helped us create a unique formulation that packs a nutritional punch and a delectable crust for our line,” Mr. Frohlichstein said. “Compared to other root vegetables, the small but mighty turnip is low in carbohydrates but nutrient-dense in fiber, iron, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin B and calcium.”

Know your nut flours

Olam Food Ingredients, a business unit of Singapore-based Olam International, offers gluten-free flour sourced from almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts and macadamias.

“The entire nut flour range was designed to create products that are natural, nutritious and delicious,” said J.I.X. Antony, vice president – ingredient excellence for Olam Food Ingredients. “However, each nut offers its own individual functionalities. Almond flour for example, is ideal for creating high-protein baked goods with a light, neutral color — such as pancakes, but for applications that need a little added bite, walnut flour can offer a unique texture as well as an earthy, nutty flavor.”

Cashew flour and walnut flour give a general nutty flavor to products they are used in, making them a good choice for gluten-free pastries, he said.

Pistachio flour and hazelnut flour introduce a more distinct nutty taste that adds indulgent sensory appeal to cakes, cookies and desserts.

“As consumer demand grows for plant-based, gluten-free, keto and clean label products, it’s no surprise that nut flours are becoming more popular as a ‘better-for-you’ alternative to traditional wheat flour,” Mr. Antony said. 

Keep up with the latest in bakery trends.