Whole Grains Hard to Find in Foodservice

Consumers are getting the whole-grain message, but have trouble finding these wholesome products when they dine out.

By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

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Work is under way at two universities to characterize and quantify the anthocyanins in Indigo Blue. A strategic alliance between Clarkson Grain and Bunge Milling, Danville, Ill., is focused on producing both organic and natural whole-grain blue corn meal, flour and grits for a variety of snack and cereal applications. Bucker claims Indigo Blue would be an excellent whole grain to fortify school meals.

Kids love pasta

Another popular children's food is pasta. But whole-wheat pasta has not yet made it into foodservice products largely because whole-wheat and multigrain pasta cannot stand up to the rigors of foodservice operations. While restaurants have unleashed a floodgate of whole-grain breads and rolls, they are not exactly rushing out with pastas touting whole-grain content. For the same reason, Barilla America, Bannockburn, Ill., does not offer Barilla Plus, a multigrain pasta, for restaurants nor for school foodservice.

While fiber-rich and nutritionally superior to its semolina counterpart, whole-wheat pasta is unappealingly darker in color, gritty and bitter to the taste. Whole-wheat components - bran and aleurone - have stronger flavor, a distinctive wheat (or barn) taste and tend to reduce the functional strength of gluten. Whole-wheat pasta tends to overcook easily and becomes mushy if allowed to stand for a while. Despite being the fastest growing categories in the retail pasta segment, they have therefore not penetrated the foodservice and prepared foods arena.

Egg white, used to make refined semolina pasta more robust, is not as effective with whole-wheat pasta and is expensive. Egg white replacements - wheat protein isolates and wheat gliadin - are not that effective either.

Processors that shied away from whole-wheat pasta in soups, stews and prepared dinners are exploring a proprietary ingredient technology from Saatwic Foods (www.saatwic.com), Brentwood, Tenn. It uses plant extracts and alginates to sustain al dente texture and mouthfeel in whole-grain and multigrain pasta textures, even under harsh and prolonged cooking conditions.

Saatwic president Ajay Chawan explains that Saatwic's proprietary technology strengthens the cell walls of starch granules and thereby controls the rupture of starch granules during cooking. As a result, whole-grain and multigrain pastas can hold their shape and texture despite prolonged cooking and standing in steam tables, and even during retort processing.

Switching refined to whole

The greatest obstacles to creating 100 percent whole-grain versions of flagship products remain appearance, texture and shelf life. The technical challenges are just as significant for scratch chefs as they are for chain restaurant operators.

This is where white wheat - a new breed of wheat - is making a big difference. White wheat is less astringent than other varieties of wheat and foods taste better when made with whole white wheat than from whole red wheat flour.

Whole Grains in Foodservice article: Sara Lee bread
Sara Lee apparently was the first major baker to create a whole-wheat white bread with last summer's debut of Soft anf Smooth, using ConAgra's Ultragrain flour.

Here again are Kansas Diamond flour from ADM and Ultragrain from ConAgra. Chicago-based Sara Lee is using the latter in its Soft anf Smooth breads, which are enjoying significant success.

"Duplicating the appearance, taste and texture of popular consumer foods without sacrificing nutrition or dietary fiber is the key to success in foodservice," according to Nick Weigel, director of technical services at ADM Milling.

"Companies are creating tasty pizza crusts and tortillas with Kansas Diamond Whole Wheat for all classes of restaurants," adds Stan Andrews, ADM's manager of bakery ingredient applications. "Whole-grain breading was relatively easy to formulate with Kansas Diamond and required very little recipe adjustment in the shift from refined grain ingredients."

For yeast-leavened items like pizza crust, he recommends formulators add wheat gluten and dough strengtheners to compensate for the interference from the non-gluten components of whole-wheat flour to the strength and volume of the finished product. In chemically leavened systems such as cakes and shortbreads, Andrews suggests adjusting the leavening to make up for the extra bulk coming from the bran and aleurone of the whole white wheat and some additional strengthening.

In the tortilla sector, Kansas Diamond mimics the rheological properties of refined flour dough. Tortilla makers can duplicate the flow and spring-back characteristics of refined flour doughs during machining without the buckiness and shrinkage associated with whole-wheat doughs. In dedicated lines the extra fine granulation creates a certain mellowing, so its gluten network holds nicely without creating holes found in whole-wheat tortillas. The added bonus is a quadrupled dietary fiber contribution without the negative taste perception that consumers reserve for whole-wheat foods.

Other grains to consider

The food processing sector is largely preoccupied with a whole-grain substitution for refined white flour. But there's more to whole grains than wheat.

Lotus Foods (www.worldpantry.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce3/ExecMacro/lotus/home.d2w/report), El Cerrito, Calif., introduced exotic varieties of rice from all over the world. Unrefined rice, a good source of vitamins and minerals, is gluten free and easily digested. It is a good whole-grain choice for infants and people with wheat allergies or digestive problems.

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