Which baked foods offer the best opportunities for whole grains? An exclusive Q&A session with ConAgra Mills’ Elizabeth Arndt, PhD, director of R&D for the Omaha, NE-based company, and Don Trouba, director of marketing, examines factors that product developers must consider. Taste and texture figure high on the list, but so do functional additives and processing conditions.

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

Don Trouba: As we look across the industry, whole grains have made inroads in many retail categories. Yet, when we consider that the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans says that we should make half our grains whole and that recent K-12 school guidelines are moving in that direction as well, we have a lot of opportunity to continue and accelerate this transition.

Retail breads, for example, have had success incorporating whole grains over the last few years. Refined bread products, however, continue to have the highest market share despite recent declines. And it’s refined flour products that tend to garner the most criticism from those outside the industry in spite of their many benefits, particularly in enriched forms, as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Looking at the bread aisle specifically, there’s tremendous potential to increase the amount and variety of whole grains in many products. Private label breads, for example, offer untapped potential in terms of entering the whole grain white category that was pioneered with the introduction of Ultragrain whole wheat flour. Creating 30% whole wheat and 51% whole wheat private label breads with products like Ultragrain can make the transition to more whole grains easy for both bakers and consumers thanks to the mainstream taste, texture and appeal of these products.

Beyond the bread aisle, cookies, pastries and indulgent goods have all slowed in recent years. Whole grains, whether or not they’re promoted that way, can be added to these products without changing their taste or texture pro-file.

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

Elizabeth Arndt: When working with formulators and new product developers, the first and most important consideration is that there is a whole grain solution for any application.

The impact of whole grains on bakery formulas, processing and final product attributes is influenced by the inclusion level and type of whole grain ingredient(s) used. Products made with relatively low inclusion of 25 to 30% traditional whole wheat flour basis generally require minor changes to the formula and processing conditions. Ultragrain, ConAgra Mills’ proprietary whole wheat flour that has the texture, taste and appearance of white flour, makes transitioning to whole grains even easier. At 25 to 30% inclusion levels, it delivers meaningful whole grain nutrition without having to modify formulas. When included at higher levels, Ultragrain provides a much more mainstream taste experience when compared to traditional whole wheat.

The main factors that product developers must be aware of when changing to partial or full whole grain formulas is that whole grains absorb more liquid, require less mixing and have lower tolerance to overmixing. Breads made with whole grain ingredients may also require an increase in other functional ingredients such as gluten and the oxidation agents. It may also be necessary to make adjustments to the baking time and temperature to ensure that the product is thoroughly baked without being overly browned.

The taste, texture and appearance of the product are also important factors for consumer acceptance that must be optimized depending on the consumer target and whole grain inclusion level and type.

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?

Dr. Arndt: In addition to traditional whole grain flours, there are a number of multi-grain flour options available that are both marketable and nutritious. Outside the flour category, other grain forms like whole cooked kernels, puffed grains or flakes can add texture, flavor, nutrition and visual appeal. One of the ingredients that we recommend for versatile texture options is ConAgra Mills’ Sustagrain, the unique high-fiber whole grain barley with three times the total and soluble fiber of oats. Sustagrain is available in flakes that can be used in place of rolled oats in cookies and baked goods. It can also be puffed for use in snacks or bars.

We’ve also received very positive response for ConAgra Mills Ancient Grains Coarse 8-Grain and Seed Inclusion with Flax. This whole grain and seed mixture, made with crushed wheat, chopped rye, millet, Sustagrain flakes, corn-meal, chopped oats, flax and sunflower seeds, can add unexpected flavor and texture to mainstream baked goods either as a toppping or an inclusion.

What whole grain ingredients does ConAgra Mills offer? Please include brand names.

Dr. Arndt: ConAgra Mills offers a full line of premium multi-use flours, innovative whole grains and custom blends.

  • Ultragrain, the all-natural 100% whole wheat flour with the taste, texture and appearance of white flour, is available in both soft and hard wheat versions to cover the spectrum of product development needs.
  • Sustagrain, the highest fiber whole grain available, is whole grain barley with three times the fiber and beta-glucan of oats and is available both in quick flake and flour forms.
  • ConAgra Mills Ancient Grains — amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum and teff — can be used singly or in multi-grain blends and are certified gluten-free.
  • ConAgra Mills Eagle Mills Gluten-Free All-Purpose Multigrain Flour Blend is an all-natural multigrain flour blend featuring ConAgra Mills Ancient Grains, delivering 15 g of whole grain and 6 g of fiber (24% of the daily value of fiber) per serving. It maintains mainstream taste, texture and appeal while increasing whole grain nutrition in gluten-free products.