When bakers, snack food producers and cereal manufacturers challenged Didion Milling, Cambria, WI, to give them a true whole grain flour made from corn, the company looked beyond standard methods.

“Didion had to change the way we handled the dry milling of corn in our plant,” explained Todd Giesfeldt, the company’s mill R&D senior manager.

Success enabled the company to introduce HarvestGold whole grain corn flour at the 2014 Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting and Food Expo. The new corn flour and corn meal made with the same process add a sweet nutty flavor to foods and are well-suited to gluten-free formulations, too.

To qualify as a whole grain, all parts of the kernel — starch, protein, bran and germ — must be present. Conventional dry corn milling methods remove both bran and germ. When developing its customized process, Didion reviewed the enzyme activity of corn flour because the increased fat content of the germ can lead to rancidity. The company developed a proprietary process to deactivate these enzymes and, thus, achieve the shelf life its customers sought.

“Often, lipid-active enzymes in corn are implicated as the cause of off flavors during food storage,” Mr. Giesfeldt said. “For example, the corn enzyme peroxidase has been linked to vinyl or straw-like flavors.”

These enzymes can also cause the natural triglycerides to be prone to oxidation over time. Free fatty acids are the product of oxidation, with these acids associated with rancid taste. These acids may interact with sodium bicarbonate to prematurely release carbon dioxide and degrade the quality of the finished baked goods. The Didion process deactivates the enzymes, thus enabling inclusion of the germ and bran to yield true whole grain flours and meals.

“Our process also leaves a certain portion of the corn kernel untouched with no changes to the starch’s microstructure,” he added. This enables maximum development of viscosity in bread dough systems and can help improve carbon dioxide retention.

“HarvestGold whole grain corn flour fits a lot of trends,” Mr. Giesfeldt said, with the most important being the changes that the US Department of Agriculture now requires of foods for K-12 school meal. As of July 1 (school year 2014-15), grain-based foods must meet whole grain-rich criteria, and the actual usage depends on the type of food being served. Cereals, for example, must carry at least 10 g whole grains per serving, with an ultimate goal of 16 g per serving.

And it’s not only the school market that will benefit. “Consumers now understand that starting their day with high-protein whole grains helps stave off hunger, improves the chance of making better food selections throughout the day and can ultimately lead to weight loss,” Mr. Giesfeldt said. “Yet most Americans barely eat one serving of whole grains a day.”

The Food and Drug Administration recently called for an increase in fiber consumption to 28 g per day, based on a 2,000-Cal diet. “Products incorporating whole grain corn are a good way to move toward that target amount,” he noted. “And the bran and germ portions of the corn kernel are loaded with ingredients that promote good health.” These include ferulic acid and the dietary carotenoids xanthophyll and beta-carotene.

For details about HarvestGold whole grain corn flour, visit the Didion website, www.didionmilling.com.