Benefits in blending whole grains

by Jeff Gelski
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When choosing a whole grain for a product, food formulators should remember they have several options. Individual whole grains offer specific benefits, including those associated with nutrition and texture. Whole grain blends might be a wise way to go.

“Bay State really tries to emphasize the right combination of whole grains,” said Dave Kovacic, director of technical services for Bay State Milling. “We don’t just look at whole wheat. All grains are not created equal.”

He said rye, for example, offers high fiber content along with visual and texture appeal, and barley and rye may fit the nutritional requirements of a whole grain product.

This year Bay State Milling, which has its headquarters in Quincy, Mass., introduced a GrainEssentials multigrain flour blend, which combines whole wheat, oat and rye flours that are blended with flaxseeds. Every 100 grams of the blend contain 83 grams of whole grain, 14 grams of dietary fiber and 3.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.

Blending whole grain corn flour into an application may give the finished product a slightly sweeter taste and a color that is lighter or more yellow, said Jeff Casper, R.&D. manager for Horizon Milling, Wayzata, Minn., a joint venture between Cargill and CHS.

Cargill offers a MaizeWise line of whole grain corn. The company created a prototype of a reduced fat beef patty on a whole grain bun. The company used enriched wheat flour, MaizeWise and its WheatSelect white spring whole wheat flour in the 28-gram bun, which provides 7 grams of whole grain in total.

Mr. Casper said ancient grains such as amaranth and quinoa may be more expensive when compared to wheat or corn, but they also may provide a different taste and texture for adventurous eaters. Formulators may show off an ancient grain by using an intact whole grain in a product, he said.

ConAgra Mills, Inc., Omaha, offers the ancient grains amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum and teff. They are available as individual whole grain flours and seeds as well as standard and custom multigrain blends.

“They have been extremely popular in flatbread-style crackers, extruded snacks, breads and tortillas, but work in a limitless number of applications,” said Don Trouba, director of marketing for ConAgra Mills.

Bay State Milling ventured into the ancient grains category this year. The company partnered with growers to offer OrganicEssentials whole spelt and OrganicEssentials white spelt flour. More recently, Bay State acquired T.J. Harkins, Bolingbrook, Ill., a supplier of specialty ingredients, including ancient grains.

In the food service category, Indian Harvest, Bemidji, Minn., this year introduced Tri-Color Quinoa. The medley of white, red and black grains yields a nutty flavor, pleasing mouthfeel and visual presentation, according to the company. Indian Harvest recommends the use of Tri-Color Quinoa in such applications as coleslaw.

The snack category may be another opportunity for whole grain blends.

“Crackers and cookies have shown great improvement in the number of varieties containing whole and multigrain,” said Robert C. Meyer Jr., director of technical services for Dakota Specialty Milling, Inc., Fargo, N.D. “The multigrain varieties have begun to include many different grains, not just wheat and oats.”

Other potential grains include rye, buckwheat, triticale, brown rice and millet.

Snyder’s-Lance, Inc., Charlotte, N.C., this year launched Granola Lance Cracker Creations sandwich crackers with either chocolate or peanut butter filling. The granola crisps have 14 grams of whole grain per serving through the inclusion of whole wheat flour, cracked whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, oats, barley and rye, and whole grain oats.

Companies may have several reasons for adding whole grains to products, both for food service and retail.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said that for this school year and the 2013-14 school year, whole grain-rich products must make up half of all grain products offered to students. Starting with the 2014-15 school year, schools must offer only whole grain-rich products. Whole grain-rich products must contain at least 51% whole grain, and the product’s remaining grain product must be enriched.

According to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2012 Food & Health Survey, 67% of respondents said over the past year they considered whether or not products contained whole grains when they were making decisions about buying packaged food or beverages. Whole grains came in second to calories at 71% and finished ahead of such items as fiber (62%), sugars (61%), sodium/salt (60%) and fats/oils (60%).

According to the Boston-based Whole Grains Council, through May of this year the Whole Grain Stamp was on more than 7,100 different products in 35 countries. The council offers the stamp in two different varieties. If a product bears the 100% stamp, all its grain ingredients must be whole grains. For this stamp there is a minimum whole grain requirement of 16 grams. If a product bears the basic stamp, it must contain at least 8 grams of whole grains.

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