Grain-based food products launched in recent years have included flour from hard white wheat varieties, known to produce a texture and taste of white wheat with a nutritious profile similar to whole grain.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the usage for retail products is going up and continues to go up," said Kent Symns, president of Farmer Direct Foods, a cooperative based in Atchison, Kas.
However, acreage for white wheat appears stagnant. White wheat varieties are grown in California, Idaho, Kansas and Montana, according to the Kansas Wheat Commission, Manhattan, Kas. Hard white varieties accounted for 1% of the state’s seeded wheat acreage, according to a Feb. 13 release from the Kansas Wheat Commission, which was down from 3.9% in 2005.
"White wheat continues to struggle because of our grain industry’s reluctance to accept change," Mr. Symns said. "Acreage is going down some from what it was a couple years ago. Farmers are wary about planting it.
"Many elevators say they don’t want it, or don’t want to receive it at harvest time."
Still, flour from hard white wheat varieties may be found in products like Sara Lee bread and Papa John’s pizza with a whole grain crust. Mike Veal, vice-president of marketing for ConAgra Mills, Omaha, said Mintel statistics show U.S. whole grain product launches rising since his company introduced Ultragrain, a hard white wheat flour, in 2004. The year 2003 saw 72 whole grain product launches, but the number increased to 770 by 2008.
"In retail, we continue to see a steady positive shift in whole grain product market share in categories that were once dominated by refined flour products," Mr. Veal said. "For example, in the tortilla category the whole grain tortilla dollar share increased from 2% in 2003 to 26% in 2008 (based on Information Resources, Inc. data)."
Efforts to increase hard white acreage continue. Dakota Pride Cooperative, Jamestown, N.D., seeks to grow 5,000 acres of a hard white wheat variety, said Leland (Judge) Barth, executive director. The cooperative had reached about 40% of its goal by late February, he said.
This year’s efforts to grow hard white varieties were going better than last year’s efforts, when high commodity prices allowed farmers to profit while sticking with other wheat varieties, Mr. Barth said. This year wheat farmers may receive about a 10% premium for hard white wheat, Mr. Barth said.
"Now, when you are looking at prices that are more in line with production costs, farmers are looking for every opportunity to increase their income per acre," he said.
A bakery operation in North Dakota also has produced a batter with hard white wheat flour to make whole wheat donuts with a mild flavor. The bakery seeks to sell the donuts to convenience stores and grocery stores, Mr. Barth said.
Dakota Pride Cooperative wants to find hard white wheat varieties that work well for the farmers, he said.
"We want to make them some more money and at the same time benefit the end-user and ultimately the consumer with a good product," he said.
North Dakota State University has developed some hard white spring wheat lines that look promising, he said, but the varieties are several years away from commercial release.
Hard white wheat varieties have increased in number and ability to resist disease this decade, Mr. Symns said.
"Genetics were a limitation for years," he said. "They’ve largely overcome the sprouting problems where white wheats can and do have some resistance to pre-harvest sprouting."
The identity preservation (I.P.) needed when handling hard white wheat takes some extra care and awareness, Mr. Symns said. The I.P. level is 2%, he said.
"That’s a pint and a half in every bushel," he said. "That’s a lot of red wheat."
Hard white wheat varieties apparently received a boost when the Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2005 recommended three servings of whole grains per day.
"It has been interesting to see how different companies have positioned whole grains based on the type of application, target market and overall marketing strategy," said Nick Weigel, director of technical services for ADM Milling, Overland Park, Kas.
An approach of "made with whole grains" may work for one application while another application may be formulated with 100% whole grain.
"There is a general feeling that mainstream target markets like children’s food products will only embrace a gradual transition to whole grains," Mr. Weigel said. "This clearly favors a ‘made with whole grains’ strategy."
Kansas Diamond white whole wheat flour from ADM Milling delivers the nutrients of whole wheat flour without compromising on the taste and texture of foods, according to the company. The micro-fine particles result in a smooth, pleasing mouthfeel, according to the company, while the light color is aesthetically pleasing. The white whole wheat flour also is high in fiber and protein.
Applications include pizza, tortillas, bread, buns, bagels, pasta and cookies.
"Whole grain flours like ADM’s Kansas Diamond have made it possible to introduce higher levels of whole grains into many products that were traditionally marketed toward kids and built on white enriched flours," Mr. Weigel said. "In doing so, these food companies have been able to bring nutrient-rich products to the market that still make the grade with kids on taste."
Kansas Diamond will be a featured ingredient for ADM Milling at "Best of Food Thinking 2009," the annual meeting and expo of the Institute of Food Technologists scheduled for June 6-9 in Anaheim, Calif. Kansas Diamond also continues to be a core ingredient for ADM Bakery Platform projects. The platform is a network of bakery application specialists that provides a range of technical services from formulation assistance to full product development.
WheatSelect from Horizon Milling, L.L.C., Minneapolis, combines 100% whole wheat nutrition with premium baking performance and sensory attributes that consumers prefer, according to the company. WheatSelect is made from select wheat varieties that optimize baking characteristics such as volume, mixing and processing tolerance. Applications include pizza, tortillas, bread, buns, bagels, pasta and cookies.
Horizon Milling is a joint venture between Cargill, Minneapolis, and
CHS, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, Minn. Cargill featured WheatSelect in its healthy cookie base, which offers 57.5% total whole grain content and more than 25% total dietary fiber.
Ultragrain white whole wheat flour from ConAgra Mills is found in Sara Lee’s line of Soft & Smooth bread and Pepperidge Farm’s Whole Grain Goldfish Crackers, Mr. Veal said. In school food service, J&J Snack Foods Corp., Pennsauken, N.J., offers a number of pretzels, biscuits and cookies made with Ultragrain.
"Ultragrain’s nutrition benefit is the fact that it is an all-natural whole grain," Mr. Veal said. "The marketing benefit is that kids cannot tell that their favorite foods have changed ... That they are now better for them."
Ultragrain combines the nutritional benefits of whole grains with the processing benefits and finished baked quality of refined flours, according to ConAgra Mills. The company applied its patented milling technology to a proprietary variety of white wheat and developed a whole grain flour that preserves the mild flavor, color and texture of refined flour. It still offers nutritional advances associated with whole grain flour, including increased phytonutrients and lower starch content.
Applications for Ultragrain include baked foods, pizza crusts, pasta, tortillas, cereals, coatings, snacks, pancakes and waffles.
Ultragrain flour is ideal for product developers who would like to add whole grains to coatings that are more similar to fit traditional refined flour profiles, said Dr. Elizabeth Arndt, manager of Research & Development for ConAgra Foods Inc. At least 8 grams of whole grain are needed per serving and at least 51% of the grain ingredients must be whole grain to make a factual claim on whole grain content, Dr. Arndt said.
"In our experience, a coating system will need to be at least 70% whole grain to achieve this," she said.
To support increased consumer baking with whole grain flour, ConAgra Mills introduced Eagle Mills All-Purpose Flour made with Ultragrain for sale at the retail level.
"Going forward, we’re exploring ways to incorporate Ultragrain with Sustagrain, our ultra high-fiber whole grain," Mr. Veal said. "One exciting idea has been a new twist on the classic hamburger: using Ultragrain in the bun and Sustagrain as a meat extender to deliver great taste, whole grains and high fiber."
Gene discovery may make wheat more resistant to fungus
An international team of researchers has discovered a gene that will make wheat used in making bread capable of resisting stripe rust, the Puccinia striiformis fungus that causes crop loss, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, which participated in the research.
Scientists transferred a resistant gene, known as Yr36, from a race of wild wheat into several domesticated pasta and bread wheat varieties. The researchers used a detailed map of a region of one wheat chromosome to isolate a candidate gene sequence. Ann Blechl, a geneticist at the A.R.S. Western Regional Research Center in Albany, Calif., conducted the research team’s genetic transformation experiments by transferring the candidate sequence into a susceptible wheat bread variety. Tests then showed the transformed plants were resistant to at least eight races of stripe rust.
The research was published in the journal Science.
Wheat producers in the Pacific Northwest have battled stripe rust since the 1950s, said Xianming Chen, an A.R.S. plant pathologist in Pullman, Wash. Outbreaks have occurred in the South and the Midwest, and the disease wiped out 25% of the wheat crop in California in 2003.