Prepare for a whole grain future, part 1

by Laurie Gorton
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Big opportunities for whole grain formulations exist in school food service as well as tortillas, breads, crackers and snacks for the general population. Jessica Wellnitz, bakery applications product development leader at Cargill, Wayzata, MN, advises bakers on how to adapt formulations and help consumers get ready for the whole grain future.

Baking & Snack: Among baked foods and snacks, what category offers the most untapped potential for whole grain formulating? Why?

As school communities prepare to implement new standards for whole grain items served to children, all categories — from dinner rolls to pizza crusts — offer great potential for whole grain formulation to meet the USDA’s requirements. Not only will our customers need to formulate cost-effective items that support good health, but these products will need to meet kids’ demands for great taste.

Recently, Cargill partnered with Minnesota’s Osseo School District to formulate a great-tasting roll with 51% whole wheat in the grain ingredients, 50% less fat and 10% less sodium than the district’s traditional rolls. In addition to the creation of a formulation that met USDA requirements, the true test was working with the district on ensuring that the kids loved the new product. Today, the children in that district are happily consuming 22% more of these healthier, whole-grain-rich rolls made with Horizon Milling’s WheatSelect white spring whole wheat flour.

Beyond the opportunity within the school nutrition landscape, consumer demand continues to grow for whole grain products. Cargill’s MaizeWise whole grain corn flour and WheatSelect white spring whole wheat flour work well in a growing number of whole grain applications such as taco shells, tortillas, breading, crackers, cookies and extruded snacks.

What should formulators and new product developers know about whole grains that would help implement such applications?

The major challenges that we see in the whole grain marketplace are around assured supply of consistent, quality ingredients and formulation. With regards to supply, Cargill’s wheat and corn origination programs result in a steady supply of high quality grains that allows us to produce consistent products for customers. Specific to formulation, the main challenges are around navigating the regulatory landscape, understanding what consumers want and managing their costs.

There is still consumer confusion around the difference between products with whole grain claims, the Whole Grain stamp and “Made with Whole Grain” labels. Further, by better understanding which ingredients consumers want to see on packaging — from ingredient decks and the front of the label — as well as consumer preference for taste and texture, we can better formulate whole grain products that will be successful. It is important to note that there is a definite consumer polarity in the whole grains space. There is strong demand for products that are rich with whole grains, but consumers say that they want them lighter in color, to have a less bitter flavor and to have a softer texture.

Beyond evaluating the milling and baking performance of incoming grains, we are constantly exploring new grain varieties and new technologies.

It’s also important to note that we are still seeing customers grapple with the shift from formulating with patent flour to whole grain flour. Thinking back to 2004 as the key point in time when whole grains became part of our everyday category, many of our customers are trying to run product on the same bakeries that were operating then. Flours milled from white wheat such as Cargill's WheatSelect white spring whole wheat flour deliver exceptional baking performance to our customers formulating whole grain products. Additionally, WheatSelect can help food manufacturers avoid some of the added expenses often tied to increasing whole grains while producing products that appeal to the growing whole grain segment. WheatSelect flour has protein and water absorption properties that help customers achieve high volume with less wheat gluten and conditioner additives, thus saving time, labor and money. Our proprietary wheat variety and unique milling process really differentiates us among other white whole wheat flours in the marketplace today.

We recently worked with a customer that wanted to reformulate a popular convenience product into a 100% whole wheat version targeted towards school lunch programs. We worked with them to reduce the gluten, sugar and fat in their recipe by 2% with a formulation that included WheatSelect white spring whole wheat flour. Not only were they able to reduce the gluten, sugar and fat content by 2%, but a taste panel preferred the new version of the product made with WheatSelect. Also, our tortilla customers have experienced great success when formulating with WheatSelect white spring whole wheat flour. In the past, they have struggled to meet whole grain formulation requirements — specifically because of texture and roll ability.

While bakery formulators are likely familiar with whole grain flours, are there other forms (cracked, crisped, puffed, pre-gelatinized, soaked, etc.) that would be interesting to use in new baked foods applications? What adjustments in processing conditions will be needed?

As consumer demand for dense, highly textured whole grain products continues to grow, Cargill helps its customers meet this demand by adapting its baked product formulations to include unique grain types as well as forms. For customers who want to use grains in their whole form, we have the expertise to help optimize the softening process in their facility so the grains won’t lose their crunchiness.

Cargill offers bakery blends containing a variety of unique grain types and forms, from amaranth, quinoa and spelt to cracked and crushed wheat. We have also worked with customers on formulations with other inclusions such as fruit and nuts. These blends are produced using a gravity-fed system and gentle blending process to provide consistent granulation for customers that minimizes absorption variability and formula adjustments which results in greater plant efficiency.

Within our MaizeWize whole grain corn flour line, we have a pregel product that is an excellent binder given its ability to absorb water. It can provide cohesion in dough and is also used by some customers to produce crisp crackers with a firm bite. The flavor profile will be different than nonwhole-grain pregel, with more of a corn/nutty flavor (primarily from the higher oil content), and again, we have experience in how to make this an asset in customers’ formulations. We worked with one of our major bakery and snack customers to formulate a cracker with a wholegrain pre-gel product; recently this customer successfully launched their new whole grain cracker nationally.

What whole grain ingredients do Cargill and Horizon Milling offer? Please include brand names.

  • Horizon Milling WheatSelect white spring whole wheat white flour
  • Horizon Milling whole wheat bakery flours
  • Cargill specialty grain blends
MaizeWise whole grain corn products: whole grain corn meal, whole grain corn flour and whole grain masa flour.
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