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“Free-from” Food: The How and Why

In the modern world, more and more people wish to know what they are actually consuming. Although the novelty of displaying the full nutritional value of a product and the ingredients used in its production began in the early twentieth century, the “free-from” products are a more recent trend.

Today, we have a hot topic in store for you, and chances are, you have probably noticed this issue already without even realising it. If you pay attention during your visits to the local supermarket, you will notice that numerous products display that they are “free-from” certain ingredients.

But what is the deal with these products? What are they free from and why? 

Gluten-free products are the most prominent types of free-from food. But why is there such a big craze for gluten-free products specifically?

We will try to answer all of these questions in today’s topic and try to put your mind to rest if you have any worries about certain products that could be bad for you, your friends, family or relatives. Read on to find out more about free-from products.

Free-from” snacks and biscuits: What are they?

You have probably already realised this, but as their name suggests, “free-from” products are snacks, food and biscuits which are one-hundred percent free from certain ingredients. But why are they free from them? Are they harmful, and if so, why do different brands and companies even feel the need to point out the fact that they are free from these ingredients?

Well, there are certain ingredients that could be considered harmful to some people, with emphasis on “some”. There are certain allergens that are used in the production of different foods and snack, such as the afore-mentioned gluten which can cause undesirable side-effects to people are who are allergic to these products.

However, these allergens are not harmful to everyone. But even so, if they can be harmful to some people, then why do the different companies even use them? Why not find some more suitable alternative ingredients? The truth is, ingredients such as gluten, lactose, milk protein and others, ease the process of baking biscuits and other snacks.

They might not add to the nutritional values of certain snacks and biscuits, but they do add to their longevity and freshness. Also, it can be troublesome to find the appropriate replacements for such ingredients, especially if a certain recipe has been in use for long periods of time.

This can sometimes be difficult to do, as the different production lines across the world operate at set parameters. Changing these parameters in any way can lead to safety issues, so the production lines have to be modified in such a way that they can meet the new required quota, but still retain the necessary safety standards.

This goes for food recipes as well. More often than not, different brands use set recipes and formulas that have been invented by nutritionists in the past century. Adding or removing any ingredients from the formula might affect the taste of the product to which the consumers have grown accustomed to.

And some of these recipes and formulas use taste enhancers, vitamins, gluten, dairy and other ingredients. As we have already mentioned above, eliminating these ingredients might change the taste of the product, and you cannot replace them with just anything. Developing the new product, which is healthier for some people (but still retains the same taste), takes time and research, and of course, money.

Besides developing the new formula, companies also have to invest into new production lines (or modifying the existing ones) in order to be able to produce the new packaging which displays that their products are indeed “free-from” certain ingredients. But, as we all know, health has no price, and the different biscuit companies need to cater their products to the consumer base which dictates the marketing trends in the industry.

This is why there are so many companies and businesses that pride themselves on the fact that their products do not use any such ingredients. The modern majority of the consumer base wants to know what it is eating. Most people wish to eat fresh and organic products, so they look for food that is “free-from” anything that is deemed unnatural or unhealthy.

Following this train of thought, we can conclude that it is easier for newer businesses to manufacture “free-from” products than companies with a recipe that has been in use for a very long time. They can create “free-from” food from the very start. Not only that, but they can also save money on the packaging process, as they only need to design one package.

But why even make products that contain such ingredients then? Why not make everything free-from? The reason for that is that it is expensive to bake snacks and biscuits without these ingredients or with their natural replacements. And only a small portion of the consumer base is allergic to them, so it would not be very profitable to cater to the minority.

However, the major companies simply cannot disregard the minority of their consumer base. They still have to make products that cater to their needs, that they would be willing to purchase and consume. Hence why they make compromises and bake smaller shipment of “free-from” products.

Other “free-from” trends and notable businesses

Health issues are not the only concern that set the trend of “free-from” products. In the modern world, there are numerous diets that one can follow, of some of these diets refrain from certain ingredients that can be found in every-day snacks and biscuits.

For instance, there is the vegan diet. Vegans are people who refrain from using any animal products what-so-ever. Vegans consider consuming meat and exploiting animals for their products to be cruel and unethical. They also believe that, although humans are herbivores, since we are on a higher evolutionary scale, we do not have to sate our most basic instincts. We can refrain from eating meat and live on an all-plant based diet.

There are some other reasons why vegans choose such a lifestyle, as they believe that the meat industry also has a huge impact on the global climate change. But, veganism is anything but easy… we live in a society that is centred around meat consumption and finding and preparing vegan-friendly meals is a tiresome process.

That is why vegans seek “free-from dairy” products. Veganism is different from vegetarianism in that vegans refrain from absolutely all animal products. In this way, they are safe knowing that the biscuits they are consuming are ethical and comply with their lifestyle. We have written an entire article on the vegan trend, and you can check it out here.

As for the companies and businesses that bake “free-from” biscuits, there are quite a few of them. For this article, we have chosen two companies, one from Latvia, and the other from Hungary.

The first “free-from” biscuits producer that we are going to explore is Gluten X. Gluten X is a family business from Hungary which, as you could have already guessed it, bakes biscuits free from gluten, dairy and sugar. Their products are also vegan friendly. They have twenty-eight years of experience and a large range of both sweet and salty biscuits.

They bake sweet biscuits in a whole assortment of flavours, which include: Coconut Magic, Vanilla Dream, Passionate Nutty, Cinnamon Harmony and Nature Chocolate. The main ingredients used in the baking of these biscuits are a gluten-free flour mix (made up of rice flour, corn flour, potato flakes and corn starch), vegetable spread, sweetener and flavouring substances (vanilla, hazelnut, cinnamon, coconut and cacao).

As for the salty biscuits, they come in five different flavours which are: Vegan Cheese, Hot Chili, Original Caraway, Brave Garlic and Mild Onion. The ingredients used for the baking of salty biscuits are very similar to the ones used for sweet biscuits, and they are: gluten-free flour mix (rice flour, corn flour, potato flakes and corn starch), vegetable cheese substitute, brewer yeast, salt and flavouring substances (chili, garlic, onion, cumin).

As for the second business that creates “free-from” biscuits, there is The Beginnings. They are a business that prides itself on baking one-hundred percent natural and healthy snacks from real veggies, nuts and fruits. Their name could even be interpreted metaphorically, as a return to our beginnings and roots.

But besides this metaphorical explanation, The Beginnings believes that every morning is an opportunity for a new beginning, and they want to give their customers this new beginning free from preservatives, artificial sweeteners, synthetic colourings and trans fats. An admirable goal indeed.

Besides not using any of the harmful ingredients that we have listed above, their biscuits are nutritious and healthy, and they also come in wonderful packaging.

They sell and distribute a large range of products in a variety of different flavours. There are the sin-free biscuits which come in apple, black currant, sea buckthorn and coconut ginger flavours.

They are free from dairy, eggs and gluten. Alongside these biscuits, there are also the sin-free macaroons, which are preservative and gluten free.

Macaroons

Figure 1- The tasty macaroons (The Beginnings' macaroons look a little different)

You can check out their products here.

The most prominent allergens found in free-from biscuits

Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life. Everyone loves to eat! Some people prefer salty meals, some prefer sweet. The food industry knows that it can be quite frustrating when you are unable to enjoy something simply because your organism is allergic to some ingredients.

That is the reason why “free-from” food products exist. The “free-from” expression, as we have already explained, stands for food and drinks that eliminate ingredients which are intolerable to some consumers. Although some ingredients are hard to replace, there are a lot of new free-from alternatives. Some of the most prominent allergens in the world are gluten, preservatives and dairy (lactose).

First of all, we are going to start with gluten. Many people are struggling with gluten intolerance due to their inability to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream properly. Gluten is present in wheat and it can cause problems to one’s body. To help people who are struggling with gluten intolerance, some restaurants have gluten-free menus.

Gluten free

Now, we are going to list some famous gluten-free products you can buy in stores. We all love cookies, don't we? But the problem is that gluten-free biscuits are very hard to chew. Simple Mills Double Chocolate Crunchy Cookies are cookies that are crispy, and that taste very good. Plus, three cookies amount to one-hundred and ten calories, which is not much.

Preservatives are chemicals added to food, beverages, paints, cosmetics and so on… They are used for flavouring, preserving (as their name suggests) and colouring. Preservatives can cause negative reactions and allergies, such as skin rash and gastrointestinal problems. Such food can be hard to avoid because they are almost everywhere.

For example, we cannot have wine, fish, sliced fruit or ramen without preservatives. The good news is that natural preservatives exist, such as sugar and salt. Vinegar also, as it is a mix of water and sugar .

Dairy intolerance is very common. Unfortunately, it is not a real allergy and one can develop it at any age. It is found in dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. This kind of intolerance comes when one’s body has no way of "dealing with" the lactose in our body. There are, of course, many food substitutes for lactose.

“Free-from” products: A concluding word

Is it a positive thing that “free-from” products exist. There are so many biscuits in the world that are both nutritional and delicious, and it would be a shame if some people were not able to try them. Luckily, the vast majority of companies cater their products to the needs of their consumers. Therefore, we have biscuits that are free from harmful substances such as gluten, preservatives and others. We hope you learned something new about these “free-from” products and that you will give them a try. Your body will be thankful. 


Leading image source: kondratya /Shutterstock.com

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