Gluten free, lactose free or allergen free does not necessarily mean healthier foods. To date, no scientific studies support the popular perception that lactose- and gluten-free foods offer a healthy alternative to regular products or can help lose weight. The labels “lactose and gluten free” would therefore appear more as a sales tool for the food industry.
Gluten Update: The Very Example of the “FREE” Trend
Although the “gluten-free” trend has been part of the market for the past few years through American stars promoting the merits of such a diet, no studies confirmed their statements. Even today, science does not attribute benefits to gluten-free products for the general population. Recently, a research team in the United Kingdom looked at the nutritional profile and prices of these foods compared to the regular products available on the market. The main findings of this European study are that most gluten-free foods contain more fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt than regular foods. Gluten-free food is also more likely to have a lower fibre and protein content than the original versions. And gluten-free foods are on average 159% more expensive than their regular counterparts.
Gluten Free ≠ Clean Label
While today’s consumer is looking for transparency and so-called “natural” food, gluten-free products do not seem to fit the Clean Label definition. Indeed, gluten is an important component of food made from cereals or their derivatives. The latter provides a matrix of viscoelasticity which, if removed, can negatively affect the structural integrity of bakery goods. Therefore, alternatives to traditional gluten-containing food require the use of a combination of flours, hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, stabilizers and enzymes, thereby increasing the list of ingredients in the product.
Gluten-free products represent only a small portion of “FREE” food in today’s agri-food market. To learn more about innovations in this field, come and attend the conference of Sophie de Reynal, from the European firm NUTRIMarketing, on “Food Substitutes and “FREE” Foods,” on October 2 at BÉNÉFIQ 2018.