New solution offers whole grain without the grit

by Lucy Sutton
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Whole grains may be the new norm, but giving them the eating quality consumers prefer presents big challenges, especially in mouthfeel. Recent data from Mintel, Chicago, IL, showed that in 2011, almost 20 times as many new whole grain products were introduced all over the globe as in the year 2000.

This trend is likely to continue as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently mandated that all grains offered in K-12 schools be at least 51% whole grain within two years. But getting consumers to eat whole grain products can be challenging — especially for school-aged kids.

Making those whole grains organoleptically invisible could solve that problem. One approach, which Watson, Inc., West Haven, CT, uses, is to micronize the germ and bran separately from the endosperm and then reintroduce them to create a whole wheat blend. As long as products made with such blends retain all three parts of the original grain in their original proportions, they qualify as whole grain in the eyes of the Food and Drug Administration.

Watson uses proprietary milling technology to produce Perfect Grain, micronized germ and bran blends that are indistinguishable from refined flour.

“The bran is very brittle, and even segments of the germ anatomy are fairly large,” said Mike Weibel, vice-president, R&D, Watson. “If they’re much above 32 microns, you can perceive them easily by your tongue.” The average particle size for Perfect Grain is 1.5 microns, well below that level of detection.

Derived from white or red wheat for the desired color profile, the ingredient can be blended with refined flour to create the whole wheat level the baker requires. Rather than inventory two kinds of flour — one refined and one whole — baking and snack food companies can keep Perfect Grain on hand to blend with their existing flour supply when they need to incorporate whole wheat into their products.

Manufacturers of leavened products including rolls and tortillas seem especially interested in Perfect Grain, according to Mr. Weibel. Alone, Perfect Grain must be labeled as “wheat germ and wheat bran (blend),” but when combined with refined flour at 18 to 20%, it can be labeled as whole wheat flour. Everything in between is up to the baker.

Perfect Grain blends also increase the bioavailability of micronutrients in germ and bran. “The key is to achieve this micronization in a manner that preserves the micro and macronutrient content to be consistent with that found in the anatomically intact caryopsis,” Mr. Weibel said.

Whole grains’ nutritional value, of course, is what makes them so attractive throughout many market segments in the baking and snack industries. When USDA’s guidelines for school nutrition go into effect, demand for appealing whole grain products will increase even more.

“Whole grains have a lot to deliver,” Mr. Weibel said. “I think if you can make the by-products of flour milling more palatably available, then I think you do a whole lot for incorporating whole grains into the public diet.”

For more information, go to www.watson-inc.com.
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