A Heriot-Watt professor who pioneered the use of sound waves to produce baked goods has been granted £500,000 to commercialise the project as part of the UK Government’s ‘Nutrition for Life’ initiative. The project, entitled 'Baking with Sound', uses ultrasound to manipulate cell structure during baking.
Dr. Carmen Sanchez-Torres, of Heriot-Watt’s Mechanical Engineering Department developed the technology, originally intended for use in medical implants. She told The Journal: “[This allows us to] control and tailor the physical processing, texture and organoleptic (i.e. natural taste, feel-at-bite, etc) properties of bakery products."
The project’s focus is to improve gluten-free and salt-reduced products. Currently, consumers who prefer these options or have no other choice due to being glucose intolerant, need to compromise on qualities such as taste, volume, and texture.
Heriot-Watt will collaborate with food ingredient manufacturer Macphie to develop the technology to industry-applicable standards. If successful, Macphie claims that it will “revolutionise the baking industry”, also stating that: “Demand for reduced salt and gluten-free bakery products is large and rapidly growing.
“[Due to the technology], gluten-free products now have better volume and texture …. Baking with Sound will deliver a step-change improvement in the quality of breads and cakes and exemplifies the benefits of industry-academic collaboration.”
The technology will also reduce waste from industry production, in particular chemical waste, and improve sustainability.
Dr Torres said: “We are aiming to tackle the waste issue and reduce it, as well as create processes that are less energy demanding in comparison with traditional processes”.
The technology is likely to stimulate greater consumer demand in the gluten-free and other ‘free-from’ sectors, and possibly the opportunity for Scotland to develop and manufacture a new world-first equipment.
The gluten-free sector is predicted to grow by 10 per cent between 2011 and 2015, reaching a worth of 95.5m GBP a year, according to Euromonitor forecasts. Bread and baked products account for 78 per cent of the gluten-free sector.