Whole grains versatility

by Jeff Gelski
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Whole grains may be ancient, sprouted or organic. For example, Suntava purple corn offers such healthful elements as anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonoids.

Formulators may wonder how they might give whole grain products an additional healthy marketing twist. Make that twists. Whole grains may be ancient, sprouted, organic or even purple, as in purple corn. Besides their appeal in bread, whole grains may serve as a potential way to ignite cereal sales or to take advantage of the nation’s snacking habit.

Bay State Milling Co., Quincy, Mass., last October expanded its BeneGrain line of sprouted ingredients to include sprouted amaranth, millet, quinoa, chia and brown flax. The line already included sprouted wheat and brown rice. BeneGrain sprouted ancient grains and seeds are germinated to activate enzymes that result in the increased availability and digestibility of key nutrients, according to the company.

“Both cold and hot breakfast cereals have been serving up whole grains like wheat, oats and corn for years,” said Jessica Wellnitz, product line manager for Bay State Milling. “Sprouted grains provide a perfect opportunity for manufacturers to develop both nutritionally complementary and better tasting whole grain products. Sprouted wheat and other sprouted grains can naturally sweeten finished products and even provide opportunities to decrease added sugar.”

Ardent Mills L.L.C., Denver, offers Sustagrain, a whole grain barley ingredient suitable for use in cereal, said Zack Sanders, a director of marketing.

“As flour, it can be incorporated into extruded applications commonly used in breakfast cereals,” he said. “As a flake, it can be added directly into clusters or granola.”

Don Trouba, a director of marketing for Ardent Mills, pointed to ancient grains as another whole grain cereal inclusion.

“Ancient grains can be mixed with something more familiar, like oatmeal or wheat, for added nutrition, sweet roasted and nutty flavors, and visual interest to breakfast cereal,” he said.

A future growth area for cereal may come in the snack category, as demonstrated by The Kellogg Co., Battle Creek, Mich., launching a To Go Breakfast Mix. Snack innovation could come in the form of ancient grains.

“The visual appeal, flavor dimensions and versatility of ancient grains present opportunities to help consumers increase whole grain intake throughout different dayparts, not just at breakfast,” Ms. Wellnitz of Bay State said. “Also, most ancient grains are non-allergenic. So they can appeal to a wider audience.”

SK Food International, Inc., a business unit of Healthy Food Ingredients, Fargo, N.D., last June launched AncientGrisps. The ingredients are milled and extruded from a blend of ancient grains, including amaranth, quinoa, sorghum and millet. They are whole grain and gluten-free and available as non-bioengineered or certified organic. Potential applications include cereals, clusters, snacks, energy bars, granola, confectionery items, salad toppings and yogurt toppings.

Ardent Mills offers such ancient grains as amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, millet, teff and buckwheat.

“A great way to leverage ancient grains across breakfast and snacking trends is through the popping process, which transforms the grain into something that’s more eye-appealing and easy for consumers
to handle,” Mr. Sanders said. “Popped or puffed ancient grains such as amaranth or sorghum can be flavored to fit both breakfast and snacking tastes.”

Mr. Trouba said whole grains, as well as ancient grains, fit with a consumer trend called “enlightened eating” that was coined by Dave Sheluga, director of consumer insights at Ardent Mills. “Enlightened eating” involves people seeking food with higher nutrition and better health benefits. For example, Sustagrain adds fiber. Ardent Mills also offers sprouted white spring whole grain flour that may be used in such applications as bread, buns, bagels, tortillas, pizza crust, pasta, crackers, breakfast bread, snacks and cereal bars, Mr. Trouba said.

“Sprouted wheat and Ultragrain (a flour with whole grain nutrition and the taste, texture and appearance of refined white flour) can also be extruded into shapes, delivering whole grain nutrition in fun ways,” Mr. Trouba said. “Sprouted also leverages the health halo, and one could envision cereals or bars with fruits, flax, pumpkin seeds, etc. Ancient grains are a natural add-in to cereal and bars. The natural flavors of grains nicely complement other cereal components, like oats and dried fruits. There’s a backlash to overly-processed foods, and whole grains with visible texture and earthy flavors bring great appeal to many foods. Consumers want their cereals and cereal bars to be more than just sugar and fast-burning carbs.”

As far as organic whole grains, look for their supply to increase since Ardent Mills on Dec. 15, 2015, announced an initiative committed to helping U.S. wheat growers double organic wheat acres by 2019. Ardent Mills offers such organic items as fine whole wheat, bread flour, all-purpose flour and spring wheat flour.

Colleen Zammer, director of product marketing for Bay State Milling, said the company offers the following organic, whole grain flours: red wheat, white wheat, rye, spelt, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, sorghum and quinoa.

Turning to purple, Suntava purple corn offers such healthful elements as anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonoids. Anthocyanins have been shown to provide benefits for heart health, colon health, blood sugar levels, brain health, vision, weight management and antioxidant defense systems, according to Suntava Corp. Besides being whole grain, Suntava purple corn is organic and Non-GMO Project Verified. It is cultivated from an ancient species of Andean purple corn,

Healthy Food Ingredients on Feb. 5 announced it had acquired Suntava Corp. H.F.I. is able to offer Suntava purple corn in such processed forms as raw flour, meal or grit; precooked flake, flour or grit; pre-gelatinized flour; snack grit and sprouted. Potential applications include tortilla chips, cereal, popcorn, crackers, baked foods, bars, baby food, powders and beverages.

Tara Froemming, marketing coordinator for H.F.I., said SK Food International cleans and packages Suntava ingredients. Bringing Suntava under the H.F.I. umbrella offers a “supply assurance,” she said.

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