Exploring the potential of green bananas

16 Jan 2019

Green banana flour is still a relatively new ingredient in Europe, but ongoing demand for nutritious gluten-free foods could boost its use in a range of new products.

Gluten-free diets have become increasingly popular and food manufacturers have been responding to the rapidly growing market. Innovative ingredients have helped improve the quality of gluten-free foods, and this, in turn, has led to a growing consumer base. According to Innova Market Insights, the number of new products with a gluten-free claim grew an average of 24% a year from 2013 to 2017.

New product development in the gluten-free space has shifted focus over the past decade or so. Rather than simply focusing on their free-from credentials, manufacturers have started to emphasise nutrition in their gluten-free products, and are looking to high protein, high fibre ingredients, such as nutritious grains, seeds, nuts and legumes. Green bananas could also answer that demand, particularly as the fruit is widely considered one of the most desirable foods from a health perspective.

Exploring the potential of green bananas

In regions where green bananas are grown, neutral-tasting green banana flour has been used as cheap substitute for wheat flour for many years, but in other parts of the world, the ingredient has usually been consigned to small specialist retailers. Now, with increased interest in plant-derived, clean label ingredients, food companies are beginning to experiment with green banana flour.

Among them, a Netherlands-based firm called Green Banana Food aims to target the growing gluten-free market with its banana-based pasta under its Gabanna brand. The pasta taps into several other current trends, being low in carbohydrates, high in protein and high in fibre – but the company claims green banana flour compares favourably with other wheat flour alternatives on the market from a functional perspective too. For example, while pasta made from legumes is nutritious, it tends to have a poor mouthfeel, and pasta from corn or rice has a good texture but poor cooking stability. Aside from in pasta, the flour can also be used in baked goods, as a thickener, in snacks, or to add fibre to a wide range of products.

Several green banana flours have been introduced to the North American market in the past few years, including from International Agriculture Group (IAG), which markets its ingredients primarily as thickeners to replace gums and starches, and WEDO, which aims to tap into the paleo trend with green banana flour used in the place of wheat flour.

It is still early days for green banana flour in commercial applications, but as consumers continue to seek nutritious gluten-free and plant-based foods, green bananas look set to turn up in a surprising variety of foods, from pizza bases to dairy products and spreads.