The gluten-free market continues to pose significant opportunities for category refinement and expansion across baking. But as product manufacturers add gluten-free lines or develop dedicated gluten-free facilities, specialized considerations must factor into operational aspects, including the type of equipment required for efficient, automated gluten-free production.

During the 2016 International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE), taking place from October 8–11 in Las Vegas, Cesar Zelaya, director of bakery technology, Handtmann, Inc., Lake Forest, IL, and Dilek Uzunalioglu, scientist and bakery and snack team lead, Ingredion, Bridgewater, NJ, will present an educational session on “Automating Gluten-Free Production: A Guide for the Gluten-Free Baker.”

In order to gain some insight into the specialized equipment requirements for gluten-free production, we reached out to Zelaya to provide a preview of this IBIE session.


Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: What are some of the key points that you plan to cover in your 2016 IBIE session on gluten-free production requirements?

Cesar Zelaya: We will show how to categorize your gluten-free products when looking for automation. Some gluten-free products product can be made on the same equipment. They just need a do a little bit of planning and take some considerations prior to starting the process. As new gluten-free bakery products are constantly emerging, and some of the existing ones are evolving, we will talk about how flexible equipment can help bakers adapt and change quicker to accommodate for the new needs.


DJP: Why does gluten-free production dictate a need for different mixers?

CZ: Most dough mixers in the market were designed for gluten-based dough and batters, mainly to develop the gluten structure. Gluten-free bakers need to do their own research within the mixing technologies available in the market to find out the best that fit their specific needs, considering the mixer type, agitator configuration, dumping/release system, cooling jacket (if needed), etc.


DJP: What other types of equipment require special consideration for gluten-free baking?

CZ: Most gluten-free doughs lack structure and become very sticky after the mixing process, presenting several challenges during the make-up or depositing process. The equipment selected need to be able to handle these different dough characteristics.


DJP: Is it possible—and possibly more economical—to start with a semi-automated gluten-free line and convert to complete automation at a later date?

CZ: The goal is to start automating those SKUs with the highest demand, but also considering future needs and planning a production floor layout that will allow a substantial throughput increase without requiring too many major modifications or equipment replacement.


DJP: How does gluten-free dough handling impact equipment maintenance compared to traditional doughs?

CZ: This is a very interesting subject. We don’t really see a major difference when it comes to maintenance and service on the equipment between gluten and gluten-free doughs, but in some cases the gluten-free doughs, per their unique formulation, can be harder on equipment. We can recommend that bakers stablish a special protocol to inspect the equipment during the first few months of production after start-up to identity potential maintenance areas that may require more attention compared to traditional gluten-based product.


DJP: What other factors should bakers looking to add a gluten-free line or facility take into consideration?

CZ: As the federal regulations get tighter on the part per millions of gluten allowed in gluten-free products (current rule is 20 ppm), dedicated equipment, dedicated production lines and even dedicated facilities seems to be the right move. Cleanability of the equipment is a key element in order to verify and document that the equipment is gluten-free before start production. 


IBIE offers a comprehensive educational program that includes over 90 expert-led sessions covering a wide range of issues and subjects central to the baking industry today. For complete details, visit