When looking at the hottest trends in the baking industry, reducing, eliminating and restructuring carbohydrates in bakery foods has turned into a priority for many of the industry's leading bakeries, scientists and ingredient suppliers.
"The low-carb trend is not only a U.S. phenomenon, but it is a force that is worldwide at the moment," Gary Prince, Weston Foods U.S.'s president, says.
As proof of this, one needs to look no further then Weston Foods, which recently launched an Atkins-endorsed bread under its Brownberry and Arnold brands. This product was the latest in a series of l ow-ca rbohydrate bakery foods to enter the market. (See side bar on page 36)
The influx of lowcarbohydrate foods to the marketplace is attributable to advances in carbohydrate science and a growing segment of society that equates carbohydrates with weight gain.
The science of studying carbohydrates dates back to the 1970s when it was discovered that not all carbohydrates are the same. From simple to complex, evolving science has allowed food technicians to understand how carbohydrates function in the body. These in-depth studies have led a growing number of doctors, nutritionists and physicians to publicly decry the dangers of some carbohydrates. Chief among these anti-carbohydrate advocates was Dr. Robert Atkins, who published Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution in 1972. Since then, reduced-carbohydrate diets have been a part of the dieting culture—albeit a small part. This has recently changed as a rising obesity epidemic in America has everyone from government officials to lawyers pointing fingers at various outlets for the expanding waist lines of Americans.
In recent years, the biggest fingers were pointed at carbohydrate-laden foods, and more specifically, the baking industry. For the most part, the baking industry has sat idle and waited for the alleged fad to pass. However, recent new product introductions by some of the nation's largest bakers have potentially signaled the end of the fad and the beginning of a new product segment: Low-carbohydrate bakery foods.
Current nomenclature describes carbohydrates as either high glycemic or low glycemic. Although seemingly simple, the definition of these types of carbohydrates, as well as consumers' understanding of these carbohydrates, is far from comprehensive.
High glycemic carbohydrates are simple carbohydrates such as those found in sugar, white bread, cookies, extruded pasta and other processed foods. High glycemic carbohydrates are easily digestible, and studies show that they raise blood sugar levels, which then crash, leaving a person with feelings of hunger. This is one of the cornerstones of no-carbohydrate diets.
Anti-carbohydrate advocates say that consumption of high glycemic carbohydrates may contribute to obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and increased triglyceride levels in the blood.
Low glycemic carbohydrates include resistant starches and soluble and insoluble fiber. They are found in whole grains and some fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber is digestible. Insoluble fiber is not, and is fermented in the lower intestine. Consumption of low glycemic carbohydrates results in slower digestion, which some studies say helps mitigate hunger and reduce the instance of blood sugar levels peaking and crashing.
When Dr. Atkins first introduced his diet, it advocated a new way of eating that flew in the face of conventional nutritionalpractices at the time. Atkins endorsed a low-carbohydrate/ highprotein diet for weight control. The theory was that the body turns simple carbohydrates into sugars that are stored as fat if not burned immediately by the metabolic process.
Nutritional theorists debunked his ideas at first, but his diet became popular as people claimed they could really lose weight on high a protein/low carbohydrate regimen. Soon, studies came to light that backed up his findings. And, in the 1990s, a Eurasta study by the European Union declared that the diet actually worked.
Today, Atkins' revolutionary diet, as well as similar programs such as The South Beach Diet, have spawned an industry that is one of the most talked about topics in the baking industry. To offer diet followers their bakery food needs, many manufacturers are formulating low-carbohydrate bakery foods.
Manufacturing low-carbohydrate bakery foods can be a confusing process for bakers not versed in both carbohydrate science and labeling regulations.
In the baking industry, one of the most common ways to create low-carbohydrate products is to reduce flour, which contains high-glycemic carbohydrates, and replace the flour with lowglycemic carbohydrates such as fibers and resistant starches.
By doing this, bakers are not necessarily reducing the total carbohydrate level of a product, but instead are promoting the net carbohydrate level of a product. Many low-carbohydrate diets, such as the Atkins' Diet, advocate counting only the net carbohydrates of a product, not the total carbohydrate of a product.
This practice leads to confusion because manufacturers are not required to include net carbohydrate content on the Nutrition Facts panel. Furthermore, Food and Drug Administration has not officially defined what net carbohydrates are, resulting in varied definitions from varied scientists and food manufacturers.
Despite these shortcomings, many low-carbohydrate manufacturers are including net carbohydrate content on the Nutrition Facts panel. Generally, the net carbohydrate content is derived by taking the total carbohydrate content and subtracting the number of grams of fiber. Some definitions go further and also subtract the number of grams of sugar alcohols.
Regardless of what definition one follows, advocates of the Atkins' Diet and similar low-carbohydrate diets are encouraged to monitor the net carbohydrate levels of foods. As a result, bakeries can capitalize on the lowcarbohydrate market by boosting the fiber content of their products through various resistant starches and fibers.
"The breakthroughs in starch research have been extraordinary," Rhonda Witwer, National Starch's business development manager of nutrition, says. Leading this breakthrough are resistant starches, which represent a low-glycemic carbohydrate that can replace flour, which is a high glycemic carbohydrate. These resistant starches are resistant to digestion, and are fermented in the lower intestine. The discovery of these resistant starches has evolved into a completely new way of looking at diets and foods, and is making a tremendous impact on the baking industry.
In the baking industry, resistant starches can replace flour in a variety of formulas. By replacing flour, resistant starches are actually replacing high-glycemic carbohydrates from flour with low-glycemic carbohydrates. For example, National Starch says its NOVELOSE 260 resistant starch delivers the taste and functionality of flour, while delivering 60% dietary fiber. According to the company, this dietary fiber is not digested or absorbed as blood sugar. "Thus, while 100% of the resistant starch is carbohydrates, only 40% of the carbohydrates-contribute to blood sugar," the company says.
MGP Ingredients' FiberStar ô 70 resistant starch also increases total dietary fiber in bakery foods while reducing available carbohydrate levels. The ingredient delivers a minimum of 70% of total dietary fiber, which also can trigger various fiber-related health claims.
In bread formulations, National Starch says bakers can formulate bread with 20% of the dough as a resistant starch to achieve a 24% to 27% reduction in net carbohydrates.
Formulating with fiber
Most ingredient systems designed to reduce high glycemic carbohydrates are chock-full of fiber. By boosting fiber levels in bakery foods, most bakers can reduce the net carbohydrate levels of their products. To incorporate these ingredients in a formula, bakers must know what these ingredients consist of, and how one can incorporate these ingredients into a product that consumers will enjoy eating.
Although high-fiber ingredients are common in the market, issues of heavy taste and texture have been hard to overcome. High-fiber breads are typically heavy and have the reputation of tasting like cardboard, especially to a population raised on white pan bread and hamburger buns. However, new technologies have made the formulation of highfiber/low-carbohydrate products tasty, profitable and in some cases easy.
Abel & Shafer's Trimline Reduced Carb Bread and Cake Mixes allow bakers to reduce net carbohydrate content in breads, bagels, cookies, muffins, cakes and brownies. The mixes are low in digestible carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber.
When used at 50%, the company's Trimline Replacement flour lowers the net carbohydrates in standard white bread from 22 grams to 10 grams. The product also increases fiber content to nine grams and protein content to six grams.
Caravan Products Co. Inc. also manufactures a line of bases and mixes that create low-carbohydrate and reduced calorie breads, rolls, bagels, flatbread, tortillas and pizza. The reduced sugar, high-in-fiber ingredients are available as a free-flowing powder in 50-lb. poly-line cardboard cartons.
Oat bran also contributes significant fiber to the diet. In the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a technology using enzymatic hydrolysis on oats that resulted in an ingredient that contained as much as 41% resistant starch. However, taste and texture were an issue. Today, food technicians have solved some of the taste issues, and now ingredients are being offered that provide the benefits of oats with a less "oaty" taste and a smoother texture.
A new ingredient from VDF FutureCeuticals offers the benefits of oat beta-glucans in a processorfriendly form. NutrimÆ Oat Bran reduces absorption of fat, slows absorption of carbohydrates, increases feelings of fullness and provides dietary fiber to an array of bakery foods. Created using a proprietary process that uses no chemical processing, the product contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, and qualifies for a structure/function label claim.
FiberStar Inc. markets a fiber derived from citrus pulp that reduces net carbohydrates in bakery foods by 7% to 8%. "The addition of FiberStar EnhancedNaturalFiber ô is able to bind high amounts of water, which enables its use as an all-natural extended shelf life system," Dale Lindquist, FiberStar's president and chief executive officer, says. According to Lindquist, the product also increases softness, improves grain and texture, improves flavor and aroma, and increases yields.
Gums also can be used in low-carbohydrate formulas to provide body and to help retain moisture. At levels of 0.1% to 5%, these ingredients can accomplish a significant carbohydrate reduction. "The key, of course, is to not add back filler in the form of other carbohydrates," Larry Hollis, Gum Technology's vice president of sales, says. Gums can replace flour in some formulas and also can help to strengthen the remaining flour in the system. Locust bean and xanthan gums are ideal for this application.
Makers of bars and snacks are being driven into the development of low-carbohydrate offerings by customer demand, says Grant Gengel, Nuvex Nutrition's director of marketing. Nuvex's Net Zero Carb CrispÆ is made from soy protein isolate and calcium carbonate, and has zero net carbohydrates. "Energy bars must have two grams of carbs or less to qualify as low-carb," Gengel says. "Low-carb crisps can gobble up one whole gram of that allotment."
The future of low carb
"Demand for low-carb foods is no longer just a trend or fad among a small segment of our society," Mike Trautschold, MGP Ingredients' executive vice president of marketing and sales, says. "It's definitely mainstream and spreading farther and wider all the time."
Although this appears to be the popular thought, some skeptics still say low-carbohydrate diets are just the latest fad. Consultant and registered nutritionist Peggy Eastmond, says that "like all fad diets, these rise and fall in popularity. You just can't eliminate one whole food group."
Still, it is hard to ignore the countless media reports and new bestseller books that continue to promote the correlation between carbohydrates and obesity. It also is hard to ignore the growing number of bakery foods being formulated for the low-carbohydrate market.
Labeling low-and reduced-carbohydrate bakery foods
Any time a new trend appears in the marketplace, manufacturers race to get their new products to the market. Although this can be a beneficial strategy, it also can lead to an assortment of problems, including labeling errors.
This problem has become prevalent in the labeling of low-or reducedcarbohydrate bakery foods. According to American Institute of Baking, "Any food products labeled as 'low-carb,' or as containing, 'only__ carbs," are considered by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be misbranded under Section 403(r)(1)(A) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act as no nutrient content claim for carbohydrates has been authorized by FDA."
Flowers Foods learned this lesson first hand with its Nature's Own Reduced Carbohydrate Premium Wheat Bread. The bread, which hit store shelves in Spring 2003, contained the nutrient content claims, "Reduced Carbohydrate," "7 Grams of Carbohydrates Per Slice," and "50% Less Carbohydrates Than Regular Breads" on the label. According to an FDA Warning Letter sent to Flowers Foods, "These claims are unlawful because they implicitly characterize a level of carbohydrate in this bread product."
For manufacturers of low-or reduced-carbohydrate products, the only allowable statement about carbohydrates is a statement of the amount of carbohydrates in a product. According to AIB, the claim, "5 grams of carbohydrates per serving," is allowable, but the claims "Only 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving," or "Contains 5 grams of carbohydrates per serving," are disallowable.
Low-carb bakery foods
The following list provides a mere sample of some of the low-carbohydrate bakery foods available on supermarkets shelves.
Atkins-endorsed Brownberry and Arnold breads from Weston Foods U.S. started appearing on store shelves in October. The company has joined forces with Atkins Nutritionals Inc. in an exclusive agreement to market low-carbohydrate bakery products in North America. The products have six net grams of carbohydrates per slice.
The company also launched a product strategy under the Atkins bakery brand that contains three breads and three bagel varieties. "We're getting great response from both customers and consumers, and I see it (low-carbohydrate products) with great potential," Gary Prince, Weston Foods U.S.'s president, says.
Flowers Foods' Nature's Own Wheat n' Fiber bread has been the most successful product introduction in the history of the company, according to Gene Lord, Flowers Foods Bakeries Group's president and chief operating officer. The bread contains seven grams of carbohydrates.
Rudi's Organic Bakery, Denver, recently launched Low-Carb and Low-Carb Herb sandwich breads. The breads have four grams of net carbohydrates, two grams of fiber and five grams of protein.
Natural Ovens Bakery, Manitowoc, Wis., markets Golden Crunch Lo Carb bread and Original