The ingredient, called NuBana RS65, is made from milled bananas and contains about 65% resistant starch, an insoluble fiber that resists digestion in the small intestine and instead is fermented in the large intestine. Green banana flour also has a prebiotic effect, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and preventing the growth of potentially harmful bacteria.
Heat degrades resistant starch, so the ingredient can be used in products that do not need cooking, like powdered beverage or smoothie mixes, non-baked snack bars, or as a standalone powder for consumers to add to their own foods and drinks. IAG offers two other NuBana flours that can replace native starches or hydrocolloids.
Banana flour is a relatively new ingredient in the United States, but it has been used in banana-growing regions in a similar way to wheat flour for many years.
For manufacturers, the ingredient brings opportunity for trendy value-adds and can be used in gluten-free products as a smoother-textured alternative to grainy flours like those from rice or almonds. It is also an ideal clean label ingredient, listed on ingredient panels simply as “green banana flour” or “banana flour.” Another U.S.-based company specializing in green banana flour, WEDO, aims to tap into the paleo trend because the product acts like a flour but is grain free.
The popularity of gluten-free products has continued to rise, and companies including PepsiCo's Quaker division, Snyder's-Lance and General Mills' cereal brands have transitioned some of their products to gluten-free or offer gluten-free varieties. PepsiCo has also considered using unripe bananas and plantains as an ingredient in gluten-free cookies, crackers, snack bars, smoothies and cereals.
Apart from its appeal in the gluten-free sector, gut health benefits continue to interest consumers. The main focus of research into products for improved gut health continues to be probiotics, but prebiotics, like the resistant starch in IAG’s banana flour, are on the rise. Demand for prebiotic-based products — such as health drinks, dairy, infant food, meat and bakery products — could drive the market to reach $7.8 billion by 2022, according to a Global Industry Analysts’ report.
For this latest banana flour ingredient, however, the fact that its resistant starch content does not stand up to baking is likely to limit its potential in the gluten-free sector, considering that bakery products are the largest category in the that market.