“The supply change will become more flexible, and contracting with growers for specialty wheats will be the way to go. Segregating and storing grains based on quality or specific traits will be a critical step. The size of the mills will change in order to become flexible upon request of customers' needs. And, contract milling (toll milling) will become another important change in the milling industry. Special products and projects from food manufacturers will require the need for more capacity of customized milling.”
California Wheat Commission
Wheat flour is used in hundreds of products: cookies, cakes, noodles, breads, pastas, and the list goes on. Product manufacturers rely not only on the flour functionality for each specific product, but also on additional ingredients. Together, those ingredients form a complex structure that at the end will make a tasty finished baked product that everybody loves.
As a Food Scientist, we are taught about the polymers that will help to create that structure, and also we are provided with some tools that will help us to develop the perfect product - either adding more vital wheat gluten, gums (xanthan gum for example), fats, etc.
In today's market, food manufacturers have to rely on other tools to satisfy a customer who is looking for a simple, natural, or clean label product.
However, this is a challenging task for products that are sold at the grocery store; which have to stay fresh for a long period of time, and still taste good.
The more customers ask for natural, clean label, and simple foods, the more companies will rely on the quality of their main raw ingredients - such as wheat flour.
The rice flour industry already classifies their rice sourcing based on large, medium, or short rice grain, for instance. Based on the type of rice, the starch composition will differ for various products applications.
In wheat flour, it is not only the starch that matters, but also other two polymers: protein (glutenins) and pentosans. They all play an important role in the final product application and finished product quality.
What can a company do? They will have to source wheat flours from specific regions and wheat varieties for various products. However, this is a challenge for the supply chain that is not set up for such complex system. Can the supply chain adapt? I believe they can. Do they want to? If they see
the value in adapting to satisfy their customers, who otherwise be looking somewhere else, or doing it themselves. Yes, they will!
The wheat flour industry at the end will change and demand (I have no doubts about this) for:
• More variety of whole grain flours and high extraction flours - from hard red, hard white, soft white/red, durum, and blends.
• Variety specific or a blend of varieties for specific product/s applications
• Are the grains sourced locally? and milled locally?
• For specific products such as tortillas, noodles, and pasta - wheat with low levels of polyphenol oxidase (PPO) will be requested.
• For pastas - durum wheat varieties with low cadmium, high yellow pigment with inactive Lipoxygenase enzymes in the grain - making a pasta with high yellow color stability.
• Gluten forming proteins (gliadins and glutenins), specially glutenins will be very important for the high quality wheats. The high quality wheats can be useful for blending to reduce the amount of vital wheat gluten in a bread recipe, for example. Durum flour can also be used.
• White flour will no longer be asked by customers. Yellow/ creamy color is more desirable and attractive to customers.
• Ash content - they no longer want low ash, low mineral content - customers will be looking for high nutrient density flours, hence high ash.
• Finally, Regenerative flour will be your customer's top choice.
The supply change will become more flexible, and contracting with growers for specialty wheats will be the way to go. Segregating and storing grains based on quality or specific traits will be a critical step.
The size of the mills will change in order to become flexible upon request of customers' needs. And, contract milling (toll milling) will become another important change in the milling industry.
Special products and projects from food manufacturers will require the need for more capacity of customized milling.
Finally, these changes will be influenced by the many more small scale bakeries that will continue to be launched across the United States; which will demand a high variability in flours to satisfy their customer's immense palate for interesting, tasty, flavorful, and healthy baked products! The fun has only started! Embrace the change!