Gluten-free foods are all the rage, and not just for those who have adverse reactions to the ingredient. For the food and beverage industry, the rise of attention on gluten has an added layer of complexity: compliance with the FDA’s recommendations on labeling. Despite those concerns, there is ample opportunity for F&B companies to seize on the emerging demand for gluten-free foods. Here’s how food & beverage manufacturers can capitalize on the gluten-free market.
Understand the Perspective
One tack for manufacturers to take is to look downstream at what restaurants are doing to respond to the growth in gluten-free. Restaurants are being encouraged to work more closely with their suppliers to ensure gluten-free products. While manufacturers may use several organizations to verify the absence of gluten, a recent post on restaurant.org urges restaurants to go further.
“The safest approach is to ask your supplier to verify an item is gluten-free because many gluten sources aren’t readily identified in the ingredient list. Beware of vague ingredient descriptions like ‘flavorings.’ Request a written statement that verifies ingredients are gluten-free or ask for a certificate of analysis.”
The same post encourages restaurateurs to be more proactive with suppliers by requesting to be notified whenever a product’s ingredients change, at least quarterly reconfirmations, and limiting allowable substitutions. Another article suggests chefs ask for “bake in the bag” products that can reduce cross-contamination from cooking vessels and other food.
A Look at Labels
In 2014, the FDA issued optional guidelines related to gluten on product labels. According to the agency, a gluten-free food cannot include an ingredient that contains a gluten-containing grain such as wheat, rye, barley or spelt; be derived from a gluten-containing grain that hasn’t been processed to remove the gluten; or, if the gluten is removed, contain more than 20 parts per million in the food.
The guidelines also place the phrases “no gluten,” “free of gluten” and “without gluten” under the same scrutiny.
Tips for Manufacturers
For manufacturers looking to enter the gluten-free zone, here are some things to consider:
• Your supply chain. You need to work with your providers to understand how their fields and farms are growing, harvesting and storing food. While grains are the source of gluten, you need to be sure that other products, such as meat, spices and dairy, are not contaminated.
• Your facility. A shared facility creating gluten and gluten-free products has a whole range of complexities. Equipment must be sanitized after each use, and care must be used that gluten traces do not settle back onto work areas. Workers need to be trained to not cross-contaminate via clothing or equipment moves.
• Test early. Ingredients should be tested upon arrival. Surfaces should be tested before work begins on gluten-free products. And finished foods should be tested.
• Managing a Gluten-Free Manufacturing Process. With the NexTec Group, you gain a proven partner in finding solutions for managing gluten-free manufacturing. With the right food manufacturing ERP, you can focus on food safety, accurate labeling, quality control, compliance monitoring, and improved productivity as well as incorporate full traceability.
At NexTec Group, we work with a range of suppliers to find the comprehensive food distribution software solution for your manufacturing facilities. We have extensive experience in the F&B sector and with multiple providers. To learn how we can help with the complexities of your food manufacturing business, download the NexTec Food Brochure.