INTERVIEW: Böcker Eyes Gluten Free Platforms for Sourdough Product Opportunities


09 Feb 2016 --- Fourth generation Dr. Georg Böcker is a food technologist and became managing director of Ernst Böcker GmbH & Co KG in 1995. Under Böcker’s leadership, the company has continued its successful research and development in the field of sourdough-starters and dried natural sourdough products.

“We have a turnover of about €19 million and are exporting about 60% of our products to foreign markets and 40% to the German market,” Georg Böcker told FoodIngredientsFirst at Europain in Paris. Gluten free is proving to be a strong growth platform for Böcker’s sourdough products, as the market develops. 
Bakery & cereal products and snack foods have been key areas for gluten free activity in recent years, largely because of rising demand for alternatives to the relatively high number of gluten-containing lines in these sectors, or because of the availability of alternative gluten free ingredients. In fact, nowhere is the gluten free trend more visible than in the cereals category. With 5 times as many products tracked in 2015-H1 (compared to 2011-H1), the penetration increased from 7% to 23%, according to Innova Market Insights new product data. Sourdough holds strong potential in innovative gluten free bakery. 
“Sourdough gives flavor to everything baked. Pastries, cakes or croissants, you can use it to create a better taste but also to create a better structure and quality of goods,” Böcker explains. Sourdough is fermented by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts with a dominance of lactic acid bacteria. The microorganisms in sourdough and preferments produce important flavor compounds, which is the main aim of sourdough. “We have transported this knowledge to make better tasting gluten free bread.” 
He continues: “The gluten free market is very important for us because there is a demand for it. The highest demand can be found in the United States, but also in Europe: people want to have gluten free products.” However, Böcker claims: “Up until now, consumers haven’t been able to find products with a really good flavor, especially in bread. We have developed mixes to create better tasting bread through sourdough.” 
The company is focusing strongly on natural ingredients which carry a “clean label” claim. Böcker says: “it is a real growing market to have the ‘clean label’ in this area. So, bakers have this product where they want to decrease the number of ingredients on the ingredients list and we are one of the companies who can help achieve this. Our aim is to create a natural bread taste in products.” 
Sourdough is what gives Böcker’s bread its natural flavor. “When we make a mix, we can’t use wheat of course. But when we use corn or rice, the product tastes like corn or rice, not bread,” Böcker says. The company claims that its bacteria and fermentation process can produce a bread flavor. “For example, if you take our bacteria and put it in milk, you get yogurt, but the yogurt tastes like bread.” Their bacteria is used in the corn or rice material and the fermentation process results in a product which tastes like bread. 
The company has continued to grow since the year 2000. The product range has been extended with liquid and pasty sourdough products. “Especially in this area we do a lot, because a liquid sourdough can capture the volatile aromas which you can’t capture as well in dried form,” Böcker says. “The paste sourdoughs contain complete kernels of cereals or small pieces of potato. We make a potato paste with potato pieces in it, so on the surface of the bread you get a certain flavor, a ‘pommes frites’ taste, so it’s a quality which a baker would never make on his own.” 
Böcker now also offers a “free loaf,” which looks like a typical rye or rye-wheat mix bread and has the texture of bread, not the typical cake-like texture of common gluten free bread. “We have been producing gluten free sourdough for at least 10 years now. We also create gluten free mixes for special recipes and have been offering gluten free breads to the German markets for the last four years,” Böcker says. “We started creating a deep frozen form for the worldwide market a year ago.” Besides potato bread, the company’s gluten free range also includes flaxseed bread, golden linseed bread and a mini baguette. There is also variety of rolls, such as the seed bread, breakfast and pretzel rolls. Examples of Böcker’s gluten free sweet options are their vegan and lactose-free mini-cakes and their seasonal, Christmas-themed “Stollen.” 
All generations of Böcker sourdough products have been based on the highest standard of purity and quality. The company and the products are certified according to the current standards. Böcker is a well-known partner for natural quality baking goods and works with distributors worldwide. After Georg Böcker and his siblings, Marion Böcker and Jochen Böcker, took over the company’s management in 2005, the following years were characterized by intensive market cultivation in Europe as well as on other continents. 
At this point, the company has more than 100 members of staff and the product range contains about 140 different sourdough products which are distributed worldwide. The latest innovation was the new plant for the manufacturing of gluten free breads in 2012. Böcker adds, “Besides Europe, we are also focusing on countries in South America, Asia and the Middle East – not so much Africa – but these areas, including Russia, where they are more used to Western-style food. These countries are seeing a rising demand for natural ingredients, natural flavoring and natural acidity.” 
By Liesbeth Thijssen & Robin Wyers

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