DENVER — Now more than ever, consumers have the ability to choose foods that align with their individual values, whether that’s personal health, planetary health, supporting farmers, or digging into food for the pure joy of it, said Don Trouba, senior director, go-to market, The Annex at Ardent Mills, Denver.

“These are all part of what we call ‘Drivers of Innovation,’ and they influence the demand for ingredients like specialty flours, and many of the ingredients Ardent Mills has launched over the last year,” Mr. Trouba said.

Specialty flours are extremely versatile, add unique taste and texture in a seemingly endless number of applications, and hit on multiple consumer trends and demands mentioned above. All of these in combination are what’s driving demand for specialty flours and grains, Mr. Trouba said.

“At Ardent Mills we ground ourselves in data and insights to ensure we’re providing the best innovative ingredients consumers are demanding in a way that is viable for our customers long term,” he said.

Ardent Mills boasts a broad portfolio of ancient and heirloom grains, from amaranth to barley, sorghum and North and South American quinoa in a variety colors, rye, spelt, einkorn and more. It’s safe to say specialty flours and grains are here to stay — and will continue to grow.

A recent example of how Ardent Mills is proactively setting its customers up for success is with its acquisition of Andean Naturals family of products and operations at Yuba City, Calif., in 2020 and its investments at it RiNo mill in Denver. Adding the Andean Naturals family of products and capabilities at Yuba City enabled Ardent Mills to offer complete solutions for quinoa and other gluten-free products. And the investments in the Denver community mill allows Ardent Mills to clean and pack intact grains, pearl barley and dehull heirloom grains like emmer, einkorn and spelt.

Cultivating relationships

“Another area we have always focused on, and continue to invest in, are our farmer and grower relationships,” Mr. Trouba said. “A great example of this is the partnership we have with the quinoa farmers in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Colorado Quinoa offers comparable taste, texture, color, size and cook volume to South American quinoa and is an exceptional alternative and supplement to imported white quinoa. We also partner with farmers in Idaho to grow heirloom wheats and source from organic farms nationwide to ensure we can meet customer and consumer demand for specialty flours.”

With the rise in personal health trends from consumers, specialty diets like Keto and low net carb continue to grow in popularity. Ardent Mills is always looking at what customers and consumers care about, and the why behind it, and are continually innovating to help meet that demand.

This is exactly how its Net Carb Flour Blend came about. As a standalone ingredient, this flour blend is non-GMO, Keto certified, dairy-free, vegan, has no-added-sugar, and can help manufacturers formulate net carb and low net carb products without compromising taste, texture, or performance.

Here is a rundown of specific products available, and applications:

  • Amaranth (flour, whole seeds, custom multigrain blends, crisps). Applications: baked foods, pastas, bars, RTE cereals.
  • Einkorn (flour and berries). Applications: muffins, waffles, bread, bagels, rolls, pizza, pasta, cookies, crackers.
  • Buckwheat (flour, whole seeds, custom multigrain blends). Applications: pancakes and waffles, soba noodles, pastry crusts, cookies, crackers.
  • Millet (flour, whole seeds, custom multigrain blends). Applications: bread and rolls, pastas, wraps and tortillas, cereals, pizza crusts, cookies, crackers, snacks, coatings.
  • Quinoa (whole grain flour, whole seeds — white, golden, black and red varieties, custom multigrain blends and mixes, crisps, rice blends). Applications: bowls, side dishes, cereals, bars, pastas, crackers.
  • • Colorado Quinoa (whole grain flour, multigrain blends and mixes, crisps, rice blends, organic). Applications: bowls, side dishes, cereals, bars, pastas, crackers.
  • Rye (flour, chopped, flaked, dark rye flour, white rye flour, rye pumpernickel flours, rye chops, rye flakes). Applications: bread, bowls, buns.
  • Sorghum (seeds, whole grain flour, custom multigrain blends, crisps). Applications: extruded snacks, cereals, bars, bread and rolls, pastas.
  • Spelt (flour, whole kernels, custom multigrain blends, cracked). Applications: muffins, waffles, bread, bagels, rolls, pizza, pasta, cookies, crackers.
  • Teff (brown and ivory, flour, whole seeds, custom multigrain blends). Applications: flatbreads, pancakes, mixes, bread, cookies, bars, pastas, wraps and tortillas.
  • Triticale (whole grain flour, white flour). Applications: pastries, bread, bagels, rolls, cookies, crackers, pasta, cereals.
  • White Sonora wheat (wheat berries, whole grain flour, individually quick frozen). Applications: tortillas, bread, flatbreads, crackers, cookies, cakes, muffins, cereals, snacks, salads, sides, toppings, soups, brewing, distilling. 

Bakery applications

From a baker’s perspective, it is important to learn about troubleshooting tips for working with specialty flours.

Vikram Ghosh, technical lead, The Annex by Ardent Mills, said it depends on which grain or specialty flour and how you’re using it. Ancient grains are extremely versatile for bakery applications and can help add whole grain nutrition, plant-based protein and fiber. They can be made into flour, flakes, crisps, blends and more that can not only help with the items just mentioned, but also enhance a finished food’s visual and taste appeal. When formulating with ancient grains, a few items need to be considered:

  • Grain type — are you using a single grain, multigrain, and does it need to be gluten free?
  • Seed coat color also will impact the end product.
  • Cost — different grains in different amounts will have various costs, this is important to keep in mind when formulating a product.
  • Flavor — each grain has a unique flavor, choosing the right one, or multiple in the form of blends, should be considered when creating grain-based applications.
  • Form — e.g., whole seed, flakes, quick-cooking, coarse flour, medium flour, fine flour, cracked, crisped.
  • Shelf life — Will the application need to be kept refrigerated or frozen to extend shelf life? Or will it be stored away in the pantry? Will it be with other foods with strong odors? All of these are important to consider.
  • Food safety — Food safety should always be a priority. Always assume it must be cooked or heated unless marked as ready-to-eat.

“With these grains, the functional and nutritional toolbox for product developers is expanded,” Mr. Ghosh said. “It provides them an opportunity to add more color and texture, and incorporate different flavors, thus making products both visually appealing and delicious to eat. Using ancient grains in blends can also help minimize impact to formulation changes and manage costs.”

Mr. Trouba added, “Specialty flours can deliver delicious baked goods that have great flavor and texture, and add variety to consumer’s diets which aligns to trends we continue to see across our Drivers of Innovation. For example, the pandemic has brought about a consumer desire to control their own health.”