Consumers, chefs increasingly turn to alternative flour

As consumers continue to seek out healthy substitutes for everyday favorites and grapple with dietary needs and desires, the alternative flour market is seeing a surge. Made from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and even insects, the types of flour available to consumers and at foodservice now run the gamut far beyond standard gluten-free options.

The quest for alternatives

Health benefits, sustainability and new and different flavors all have consumers and chefs turning to myriad types of alternative flours. In fact, Whole Foods Market counted these new options among its top trends for 2020, with flours made from fruits and vegetables, teff and tigernuts gaining a mention from the retailer.

With the global gluten-free food market expected to reach more than $15 billion in the next six years, according to Global Market Insights, the alternative flour movement is likely more than a passing trend. Other diets, including keto and Whole30, have eschewed gluten, grains and highly refined carbohydrates, further adding to the popularity of alternative flours.

“Alternative flours are gaining interest in the culinary world to offset negatives of traditional wheat flour, to improve the nutritional value of prepared foods and because of the interest of chefs and consumers to explore new textures, flavors and aromas,” Anastasia Tkacheva, co-founder and chief technology officer of Planetarians told Food Business News.

As La Brea Bakery’s Jonathan Davis explained to Bake Magazine, alternative flours have the ability to create unique flavors for today’s adventurous eaters.

“In addition to health benefits, vegetable and fruit flours have the ability to create products with entirely new flavors and textures,” he said. “Banana flour has been gaining popularity as a gluten-free ingredient for baked goods and coconut flour has flooded the market due to its low-carb, gluten-free qualities.”

A plethora of options

Beyond green bananas and coconuts, other fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, apples and pumpkins are being dried and pressed into flour. CPG companies, chefs and home cooks alike are incorporating these ingredients into readily available snack foods, traditional recipes and baked goods.

UK-based Roberts Bakery, for example, released a limited-edition “Crunchy Cricket” bread loaf over the holiday season which was made with cricket flour. "As well as having very strong sustainability and environmental credentials, insects are also seriously tasty and shouldn't be overlooked as a great recipe ingredient," said Roberts Bakery’s Alison Ordonez.

Likewise, Wisconsin’s Colectivo Coffee has launched several vegan, gluten-free baked goods made with oat and nut flours. These treats offer something for eaters with a variety of dietary restrictions while also tapping into one of the year’s biggest trends.

On the packaged goods side, Whole Foods highlighted tortilla chips from Late July that are made with tigernut flour, as well as Superseed Life Donuts that feature a unique flour blend made from seven seeds, including sunflower, flax, hemp and poppy.

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