HOMEGROWN bread and pastry chain Magic Melt Foods Inc. is introducing a gluten-free product line to win over a growing number of health-conscious consumers.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Carolyne L. Go said her frequent visits to the US and her observations on a trend that favored organic, gluten-free, all-natural food choices have inspired her to embrace healthier bread and pastries.

Magic Melt’s “healthilicious delights” are made out of mango flour, milled from mango peel and mango seeds, instead of wheat flour.

Cebu-based Green Enviro Management Systems Inc. manufactures and holds the patent for mango flour, which has recently sparked the interest of some government officials of Johannesberg in South Africa. They’ve had some representatives trained by Cebuano bakers to prepare bread out of mango flour.

Go said that Magic Melt was the first bread and pastry chain to make use of mango flour since early last year.

“We did some tests…It requires some time because the characteristics (of mango flour) are very different from that of ordinary flour. It doesn’t have gluten. We have to use other ingredients to substitute and have that binding (property),” the CEO said.

Gluten has viscoelastic properties that allow dough to rise, keep its shape, and produce a chewy texture. But gluten is also believed to cause celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergy, among others.

In Magic Melt’s case, Go said they substituted gluten with egg white and other “healthy” alternatives. They use mango flour for some muffins, bread, energy bars, and sandwiches.

“We saw the need for healthy products. When we checked our competitors, very few (offer them),” Go said.

A study by Transparency Market Research has projected that the rising consumer demand for natural and healthy bread and baked food products would amount to some US$310 billion this year.

In the Philippines, Go said, the bread and pastry industry faces “very tough” competition, especially with the advent of home-based bakers. The challenge, she said, is to differentiate one’s products from the rest.