Bread and rolls offer the best prospects for whole grains, according to Bob Meyer, director of technical services for Dakota Specialty Milling, Fargo, ND. He also sees untapped opportunities in the quick service restaurant and food service sectors. The many forms and flavors of whole grain ingredients open up lots of possibilities.

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

Bob Meyer: The largest growth continues to be in the bread and roll products, where consumers have become accustomed to seeing whole grains and multigrains. Crackers and cookies would be the next biggest growth area for introducing consumers to whole grains and multigrains, even if these are limited on the number of grains included in the formulation. Chips are beginning to enjoy growth in whole and multigrain products, with a wide variety of unique flavor profiles.

The Hispanic population continues to be one of the largest growing sectors of consumers and they are looking for traditional products for their families but are very limited on the number of whole grain products available to them. This is also a taste profile that they are unfamiliar with and can be reluctant to try whole grain and multigrain products because of their higher market price. Tortilla manufacturers have tried to introduce multigrain products with very little success. Hispanics enjoy flavors, of all kinds — sweet, spicy, savory and bold. The same could be said for many other markets, and we can see in the cracker and chip aisles the number of flavors being infused into these products. Formulators should develop products with these unique flavor profiles in mind along with whole grains in order to grow in the Hispanic market and others.

Ultimately, the most potential for whole grains and multigrain growth remains in the quick-service restaurants (QSRs) of all types, not just hamburgers. Although from a price point, it would be hard to convince these operations of the benefits of whole and multigrain products, R&D teams should still approach this as an opportunity to introduce to their customers the benefits of whole and multigrains, even if at a lower level than required to make nutritional claims, thus all would benefit. The company could provide a more nutritional product at a good value (price) to the consumer. Some whole grains in a product are much better than none at all. Eventually, the consumer will demand more nutritional baked products from QSR menus, and the shift will occur.

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

There are several things to consider when formulating with whole grains and multigrains. First of all, define what you are looking for in the finished product. Are you looking for grain visibility and a heartier mouthfeel? Or do you want a soft look and taste? Remember that each grain has its own flavor profile and unique characteristics and can be more pronounced in a formula depending on what other grains, sugars and other flavors you might consider using, as well as the process.

Second, understand the process that the product is made on. In the case of breads and rolls, are you using a sponge-and-dough method, which allows for hydration of the grains and fermentation attributes? Or are you using a no-time method, which minimizes these traits? If you are doing a cracker process, you will have to consider the particle size of the grains especially if you are looking for some grain visibility in the end product. Work with your specialty grain suppliers on the types of grains and the forms — cracked, flaked, flour, etc. — that you will need. Forms that work in breads or rolls will not necessarily work in crackers and chips or other products.

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?

Surprisingly, many R&D teams are not aware of the many different forms and types of grains available. Vendors should develop strong relationships with R&D groups to provide an understanding of what they can provide in the way of unique forms of grains.

As stated previously, know the process. There are many unique products available for use in baked products, each with a price point. The more a grain is processed — special milling, toasting, puffed, pre-soaked — the more expensive it becomes. Some are designed for convenience, and others may provide unique profiles in the finished products, all depending on the process. Before trying these unique products, start with the basic grains milled in different forms — cuts, cracked, rolled flakes, meals flours — and with the correct formulation and process, you will end up with a very good and nutritional product at a much lower price point then if you use some of the more uniquely processed grains.