Organic potato starch for Gluten-free products

The gluten-free market hasn’t been only about celiac for a long time. Increasingly consumers buy gluten-free products for perceived health benefits or weight management. Increasingly there is also a demand for organic gluten-free products especially for this broader group of health conscious non-celiac consumers. Europe is the largest gluten-free market but North America is the fastest growing market.

While consumers increasingly go gluten-free their expectations for product quality have also increased. Gluten-free products should be as good and tasty as products with gluten. This can obviously be a challenge where gluten has a key function in the products in question like in bakery products. Conventional food industry has a lot of ways to tackle the challenge (modified starches, dextrins, enzymes made with gmo’s and many acids are not allowed in organic) while organic manufacturers have more limited options.

Organic gluten free bakery products

Organic potato starch is available on the market as a native starch and as a cold-swelling (also called pre-gel) starch. Aloja Starkelsen also produces organic baking powder with potato starch as carrier, which gives the baking powder additional functionality.

In bakery products potato starch is multifunctional:

  1. Usually a gluten-free dough lacks viscosity and plasticity which makes it difficult to form and manipulate. Adding cold-swelling potato starch gives the dough more viscosity and finally functions as native potato starch in the baking process.
  2. Potato starch has a lower swelling temperature than other starches and a very high water binding capacity. During the baking process, when dough temperature reaches 60-65C and starts to rise, potato starch starts to swell and thereby it stabilises the volume of the baked product. The dough remains light and rises soft and tender,
  3. More moisture in the dough allows for other ingredients, like other starches and fibres, to swell and hydrogenase, which improves the mouthfeel of the product.
  4. At the end of baking potato starch overswells and after cooling retrogrades.  This creates moisture migration barriers. Moisture from the soft inner parts of the product will not migrate out thereby preventing it from becoming stale and keeping its crust crispy. On the other hand the moisture barrier blocks moisture from the surrounding air so the product stays crispy for a longer time.

Potato starch has no taste or flavour so it is excellent for all types of bakery products – sweet and sour breads, muffins, cookies, pastries, pasta etc. Gluten-free bread is normally formulated from a mix of different flours. Potato starch could be added up to 30% in gluten free bakery product formulations. Potato starch can also replace eggs in breads, muffins and cakes as a texturiser. 10 grams of potato starch with 45 grams of water replaces one egg.


Instant products

Instant dry mixes of food or beverages is an other area where potato starch has a lot of benefits compared to other alternatives. Potato starch has excellent viscosity and texture creating properties. It forms a solution with no taste, no off-flavours, no colour and almost completely transparent while grain starches have a grainy taste and are opaque in colour. Potato starch will keep the dry product stable in storage and it will not lump (actually it is used as an anti-caking agent f.ex. in spice mixes, icing sugar and grated cheese). Due to the higher water binding and viscosity forming capacity of potato starch compared to other starches dosage can be reduced by 20% to 50%.  Organic potato starch with lower moisture level (>5%) is also available which can be interesting in instant product formulations.

Often hydrocolloids such as guar gum, LBG, xanthan gum and others are used in instant products. If stability in liquid form is not required these can be replaced by cold-swelling potato starch. Even though potato starch dosage would have to be slightly higher one would achieve cost savings and possibly a cleaner more organic ingredient list.

Resistant starch

Potato starch is an excellent source of resistant starch. Opposite to what most people think potato starch is not just one carbohydrate that is converted into sugars and energy in your body. A large part of potato starch is resistant starch which is not metabolised and acts similar to a nutritional fiber in the human body – which of course is a health benefit. The proportion of resistant starch is highest in dry native potato starch (up to 60%) and lowest in a potato starch solution. In bakery products potato starch is mostly as retrograded starch where the resistance starch content is again higher.

Native and modified starch 

Regarding starches the main difference between conventional and organics is that chemical modification of starches is not allowed in organic production and processing. That leaves the organic processor with native starch and a few physical modifications of which cold-swelling potato starch and dried starch are the most important while the mainstream processor has an endless number of chemically modified starches for different application areas at his disposal. The mainstream food processor does not really need to be well aware of the differences between different native starches. The organic processor on the other hand needs to know the differences in functionality of different native starches and she needs to know how starches are and can be modified in the food manufacturing process itself.

The main point to understand is that with potato starch the whole cycle of starch granule swelling and gelatinisation, overswelling, granule breakdown and becoming a starch solution through to the retrogradation of the starch happens in the temperature range normally used by food processors. Other starches require higher temperatures which are not normally used in f.ex. bakeries or most other food production processes. Therefore the organic processors can in many cases compensate the lack of modified starches by controlling the starch modification in his or her process.



Swelling process

While heating potato starch in a water dispersion the granules start to take up water and swell. When the temperature has reached appr. 60 C the granules are so swollen that they start to create viscosity. Further heating increases the viscosity and the granules become like balloons. At appr. 75 C the granules are swollen to their maximum. Further heating starts to break the granules which continues until all the granules are completely broken into a solution. When cooling the solution retrogradation takes place and gel is created. The exact process depends of course on the concentration of the starch and other solids. All these different phases offer different functionality and possibilities for food processing in temperatures that are applicable in most food processing. Therefore organic potato starch is a natural functional ingredient with several potential application areas.

Why is potato starch so good?

Much of the superiority of potato starch is based on the much bigger starch granules it has compared to other starch producing plants. It is because potato is a cold climate plant that uses starch not only to stock energy from one season to the next but also to bind the water in the potato tuber over the winter. Therefore it has much higher water binding capacity than grain starches (no need to bind water) or tubers from warmer climates (no winter).

For some in the organic industry potato starch sounds very technical and refined. However it is a very simple starch to produce and was produced even by the Incas 4000 years ago in South America. In Northern and Eastern Europe housewives produced it in their kitchen still 50-100 years ago – maybe in some places still today. In the kitchen it doesn’t require anything you wouldn’t already have there. Even in factory scale potato starch is produced the same way – totally mechanically and using water to wash the starch. In Finland and Latvia there is no lack of clean water so while the water is recuperated several times in the process and finally cleaned the last starch washing is done with absolutely clean tap water. Side streams of the process are effectively used for fodder, fertiliser and protein extraction – nothing is lost.

Benefits of organic potato starch 


To sum up, organic potato starch has several benefits compared to other starches:

  • It has superior water binding capacity and viscosity builder
  • Swells at lower temperatures than other starches
  • Clean starch: no taste, transparent gel
  • Allergen and gluten-free
  • GMO-free
  • EU origin

For further information please contact:

Mr Erkki Pöytäniemi,

Export Manager for

tel +358 50 5505225

Manufacturing companies:

Aloja Starkelsen Ltd

Ungurpils, Latvia

Finnamyl Ltd

Kokemäki, Finland

 (Erkki Poytaniemi, Erkki Pöytäniemi)

Harvesting organic starch potato in Latvia, September. Aloja Starkelsen contracts its organic starch potatoes locally in Latvia while Finnamyl contracts all potatoes locally in Finland. ©Erkki Pöytäniemi

 (Photographer: Erkki Poytaniemi)

The washed potato starch slurry is dried with rotating vacuum filters. Finnamyl Ltd. ©Erkki Pöytäniemi