The ingredient, rich in calcium and magnesium, is derived from red seaweed Lithothamnion Coralliodides, which is harvested under licence by Marigot off the south west coast of Ireland. It has previously been found to improve the sensory qualities in certain categories of fortified beverages, such as soy. But the new investigations, conducted independently at the Ashtown Food Research centre in Dublin, could prove the answer to a common problem for niche bakers - how to make their gluten-free bread firm. Moreover, in the same way as technological advancements have made soy milk more palatable over the last decade, such developments could help overcome consumer barriers to gluten-free products like taste, appearance and mouth-feel. Scientists at the Ashdown centre assessed the impact of using the Aquamin F and Aquamin TG grades of the ingredient in gluten-free bread against criteria including crumb texture profile and crumb and crust colour. The visual appearance was also assessed by bakery professionals, who remarked on shape uniformity, crust abnormalities, cell size and cell wall thickness in the crumb. Both grades were seen to have a crumb softening effect in the bread - up to 7.2 per cent than the control. Texture and visual acceptability were improved, without affecting other quality parameters. Aquamin TG was seen to have a particularly positive impact on crust shape and crumb cell size. For Marigot, the merits of such research lie in building the uses of its ingredient range - and as a consequence, sales avenues. "Using Aquamin provides the functionality bakers require for consumer-friendly free-from products, while at the same time providing additional nutritional benefits," said Marigot commercial manager David O'Leary. Gluten-free products are aimed primarily at consumers who cut out gluten for health reasons. For instance, gluten must be avoided by sufferers of Coeliac disease, which affects an average of one in 300 people in Europe and the US Such consumers are likely to have a heightened awareness of dietary and nutritional issues, so could also be receptive to added nutrients such as calcium and magnesium in foods geared towards meeting their needs. Estimates by market researcher Mintel put the market for free-from foods in the UK alone at around £90m (€131m) in 2005, with gluten-/wheat-free products accounting for 54 per cent of value sales between them. Marigot is not alone in seeking to tap the potential of this market. In late 2006 researchers at the Food Technology Plant Special Research Centre (CeRPTA), attached to the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, claimed to have created a type of bread with a similar taste and consistency to that derived from wheat flour - with a spongy texture and normal volume. While few detailed are revealed about their method, it is known that the product was made from plant-based ingredients and suitable for those with an intolerance to lactose and eggs. The full report on Aquamin's use in gluten-free bread has not been published and has not been seen by FoodNavigator.com. No indication has been given of the reason for the mineral complex's effect on the bread's texture.