Whole grain promotions have enjoyed about a decade of success. Food companies wanting to differentiate their whole grain products in 2015 may consider other marketable attributes. Whole grains, depending on the type of grain, may be candidates for protein, fiber, gluten-free or non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. promotions.
“Every grain has different strengths and weaknesses and nutrients,” said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the Whole Grains Council, Boston.
The Whole Grains Council administers the Whole Grain Stamp, which originated in 2005 and now appears on more than 10,000 products in 44 countries.
While consumers may associate whole grains with fiber, they may not know about protein content.
“I think people are often surprised to find that whole grains can be a good source of protein,” Ms. Harriman said. “People say, ‘Oh, well, grains are just carbs.’”
Most grains qualify as a good source of protein because they contain at least 5 grams of protein per 45-gram serving, she said.
Quinoa, teff, amaranth and buckwheat all contain at least 13 grams of protein per 100 grams, said Angela Ichwan, senior director research and technical solutions for Ardent Mills, Denver. Amaranth, at 14.45 grams, provides the most protein, she said. Sustagrain whole grain barley from Ardent Mills offers 18.2 grams of protein per 100 grams.
Quinoa is rich in protein, said Susan Kay, manager, product applications for Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass. It’s widely used in side dishes, salads and grain-based food items such as bread, bars and snacks, she said.
“It’s really mainstream now,” Ms. Kay said.
Many traditional and specialty grains typically have high protein content, said Tim Devey, corporate marketing director for Honeyville, Inc., Brigham City, Utah. He mentioned Kamut khorasan wheat, amaranth, quinoa, rye, spelt, triticale, oats, hard red wheat, einkhorn and hulled barley.
“Additionally, seed grains such as flax that are higher into protein can be blended into specialty flours,” Mr. Devey said. “It’s important to note that with the exception of amaranth and quinoa, the proteins in grain are not considered to be ‘complete proteins’ as they are missing or low in essential amino acids.”
Grain Craft, Chattanooga, Tenn., has several different whole wheat flours, varying from approximately 10% to 14.5% protein, said Tim Aschbrenner, director of quality assurance for Grain Craft, which was formed through the combination of Cereal Food Processors, Inc., Milner Milling Co. and Pendleton Flour Mills. The whole wheat flours are made from different classes, such as soft red winter, hard white, hard red winter and hard red spring wheat, he said.
“Generally the higher protein whole wheat flour is produced from hard red spring wheats,” Mr. Aschbrenner said.
Fiber options flourish
Almost all whole grains are at least a good source of fiber, Ms. Harriman said. The gluten-containing grains tend to have the most fiber, she said. Barley, rye, Kamut khorasan wheat, triticale and many other wheat varieties are excellent sources of fiber.
Ardent Mills’ Sustagrain ultra-high fiber barley is more than 30% dietary fiber, Ms. Ichwan said.
“Sustagrain also has an extremely high level of beta-glucan, making it a great ingredient for developers to leverage when looking to make heart claims in formulations,” she said.
Barley varieties contain about 17% fiber, Mr. Devey said. Other whole grains with high fiber content are rye (15%), triticale (14%), wheat (10% to 12%) and oats (10%), he said.
New research is showing the satiety benefits, or feeling of fullness, associated with rye consumption, Ms. Kay said. For example, researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden, found whole grain rye crisp bread caused lower self-reported hunger, higher fullness and less desire to eat compared to refined wheat bread. Results of the study appeared March 25, 2014, in Nutrition Journal.
Most whole wheat flours contain more than 12% fiber, Mr. Aschbrenner said, adding whole wheat flour contains other nutrients and vitamins as well.
Wheat flour, along with flour from rye, barley or triticale, contains gluten and thus cannot work in gluten-free products. Yet amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff and wild rice do not contain gluten, Ms. Harriman said.
“People just need to be reminded that gluten-free does not mean grain-free,” she said.
“Most ancient grains are naturally gluten-free and packed with nutrients, making them an excellent ingredient for developers to consider for their gluten-free products,” said Zachery Sanders, director, marketing, Ardent Mills.
Ms. Kay said amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, oats, brown rice, teff, sorghum and quinoa all have different flavor profiles, various textures and unique appearances.
“You can mix and match whole grains and seeds,” she said. “They mesh together well to create interesting flavors and textures in finished grain-based food products.”
While seeds are not classified as whole grains, they may add texture, flavor and protein to whole grain products, Ms. Kay said.
Honeyville now has a cracking facility that is gluten-free certified, Mr. Devey said.
“This is a relatively new offering in the gluten-free sector,” he said. “There are a few companies that are manufacturing gluten-free rolled oats, but cracked grains is one that has vast potential.
“Honeyville is very careful about cross-contamination, which is why we built a designated gluten-free sector. We want to make sure that no cross-contamination exists. We have already seen large business in the way of cracked sorghum for use in cereals and breakfast bars.”
Cracked grains may qualify as whole grain if they meet certain conditions, according to the Whole Grain Council’s definition: “Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed in their original proportions. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.”
Corn is another whole grain, gluten-free option.
Didion Milling, Cambria, Wis., has a whole grain corn flour in which Didion calibrated its formulation to enhance flavor and functionality attributes, said Todd Giesfeldt, mill R.&D. senior manager, Didion Milling.
Didion products primarily are made from corn that has been debranned and degerminated, he said. Adding whole grain corn flour to the product line required facility customization to be able to process whole kernel corn into finished product that retains the whole kernel composition.
“During the development stage, Didion reviewed the enzyme activity of whole grain corn flour, as increased fat content in whole grain products can lead to rancidity,” Mr. Giesfeldt said. “Didion developed a process to deactivate these enzymes to promote shelf life.”
He said cereal companies may wish to consider whole grain corn. Cereal companies are striving for a minimum of 10 grams of whole grain per serving with an ultimate goal of 16 grams per serving, he said.
Cargill, Minneapolis, offers MaizeWise whole grain corn flour.
“With MaizeWise whole grain corn flour, whole grain can be transformed into a light, fluffy, sweet-tasting experience,” said Laura Gerhard, commercial manager, Dry Corn Ingredients, Cargill. “Our research has shown that school-age children favor blending MaizeWise whole grain corn flour into traditional whole wheat products.”
She added, “Gluten-free products tend to be nutritionally deficient as compared to their gluten-containing counterparts. Using MaizeWise whole grain corn products can help improve the overall nutritional profile of the final product and also provide a variety of flavors and textures.”
Some corn is non-G.M.O.
Many whole grains are non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O.
“Currently, there are no commercially available G.M.O. wheats available in the U.S.,” Mr. Aschbrenner said. “Thus, our whole wheat products are produced from non-G.M.O. wheat and would make an excellent choice in formulating a non-G.M.O. product.”
Companies wanting to create non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O. product need to be careful with corn, though. Companies should check if the corn is certified organic or certified non-G.M.O., Ms. Harriman said. Either certification would mean it is non-bioengineered/non-G.M.O.
“At our Honeyville mill, we take great care to prevent any cross-contamination between G.M.O. corn and non-G.M.O. grains,” Mr. Devey said. “Non-G.M.O. corn is also an option for companies who would like to include corn in their products.”
There are strains and varieties of corn that are non-G.M.O., said Colleen Zammer, director of product marketing for Bay State Milling. The company mills non-G.M.O. corn in its California mill.
The genetic modification issue is different from market to market, Ms. Zammer said.
“The G.M.O. issue blew up in Europe probably 10, 15 years ago,” she said. “They didn’t want G.M.O.s, and now they are not used in most products in Europe. Here (in the United States) we are just starting to react and asking for labeling.”
G.M.O.s are not a big issue with most whole grains, except for corn, either inside the United States or in export markets, she said.
The whole grains market in general is still growing in the United States. In Europe, whole grains are the norm, Ms. Zammer said. Whole grain bread has been more pervasive there for a longer period of time, and it is a more mature market.
“In the U.S., whole grain foods are definitely still in a growth phase,” she said.