Ames to receive expansion in available gluten-free products

Kelly Schiro

As more and more people are diagnosed with Celiac disease or just want to establish a gluten-free diet, the market for gluten-free products continues to expand. To accommodate for this expansion, Barilla intends to open gluten-free production lines in Ames.

Fabio Pettenati, vice president of Barilla’s Supply Chain Region Americas, said Barilla launched the gluten-free product line in the fall of 2013. Pettenati said products are currently being shipped to America from Italy.

“The demand in the market [has grown] and we saw consumption of gluten-free pasta going up about 40 percent,” Pettenati said. “Both because more and more people are allergic to gluten and others feel it is lighter.”

Gluten-free pasta is made with corn and rice, whereas the regular pasta is made of semolina, which is flour that is specially granulated wheat. The U.S. provides alternative options for pasta, such as whole-grain pasta.

Local Ames businesses are serving gluten-free customers, as well.

Ami’s Cakes and Confections is operated from Ami Frank’s home. When Frank’s daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease, Frank had to figure out how to supplement the food her daughter was given at daycare with gluten-free products that were similar.

“It changes the way you shop,” Frank said. “When we first changed to gluten free, it took forever to shop because I had to look at every single label.”

She makes cakes, cupcakes, French bread, rolls and buns. The business began with her daughter but grew to coworkers and friends of friends who needed gluten-free products.

“The gluten acts as a binder to hold things together,” Frank said.

She uses a mix that has white rice flour, tapioca starch, corn starch and corn flour with xanthan gum as the binder for sweets.

A lot of gluten-free items take a while to develop. Frank said she has put a lot of time and money into figuring it all out. 

“Typically, one substitution for flour, like white rice or tapioca starch, it doesn’t work well,” Frank said, “It takes about three products mixed together to mimic wheat flour.”

Frank has tried Barilla’s gluten-free pasta and likes the fusilli and elbows. Barilla’s gluten-free pasta can be found in most big retail stores. In stores, there are four different cuts of pasta available in the gluten-free variety — spaghetti, rotini, elbows and penne.

Frank has yet to make gluten-free pasta for herself, but she purchased a KitchenAid pasta attachment to make ravioli.

Barilla’s research and development team worked hard to find the right recipe to retain the texture and flavor of pasta so everyone in the family can enjoy it.

Pettenati hopes to be closer to the market as a result of the new production lines in Ames, allowing an increase in distribution and volume. Barilla intends to ship more product from Italy to reach a larger market this year.

Italy has four lines dedicated to the gluten free products and there are plans for two lines in Ames, which are estimated by Pettenati to produce 16,000 pounds per year.

Pettenati said sales of gluten-free products have exceeded expectations.

“We picked Ames because it’s close to the raw materials, basically the corn,” Pettenati said.