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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Lotus also offers a line of heirloom grains such as Bhutanese Red Rice with a nutty/earthy flavor, soft texture and beautiful red russet color; Forbidden Rice, a medium-size Chinese black rice prized for its delicious nutty taste, soft texture and deep purple color; and Kalijira Rice, also known as the Prince of Rice, tiny aromatic grains that cook in only 10 minutes. Pasta makers can use Bhutanese Red Rice flour for gluten-free and wheat-free products. Forbidden Black Rice flour yields purple pastel-colored flour that can add interesting and nutritious color especially for foods for children.

The opportunity is growing for tasty whole-grain foods consumed away from home. Processors will do well to create tasty versions of familiar foods for foodservice and restaurant channels. The key is to develop these products to deliver nutrition without sacrificing taste.


Making whole-grain versions of your flagship brands is no slam dunk. Let the product developers do their thing, but you should investigate and add to the discussion some critical considerations from the plant:

    • First, set up a new and separate bin for the whole-grain flour(s).

    • Next, test and characterize each of the formulae with whole-grain flours and establish the optimized processing parameters, including time, temperature, absorption, etc.

    • Then, raise the level of detail among line workers in the plant, so everyone knows the difference between whole-grain products and their refined counterparts.

  • Last, but not least, work with the vendor to establish shelf life of the raw material. Whole-grain flours have shorter shelf lives to begin with, and some manufacturers have further shortened the shelf life to compensate for additional processing.

Modern markets for ancient grains

The whole-grain movement is not just another trend but is a growing social consciousness of health and wellness. Whole grains contribute color, texture, wholesome taste and nutrition to the food processing palette that had become relatively light, smooth, bland and less nutritious.

The 80 high-profile members of the Chef's Council of San Francisco-based Center for Culinary Development have proven to be good forecasters of culinary ideas that trickle down from upper crust white-tablecloth environs to mainstream restaurants and fast-food chains. The council has added to the growing public interest in whole grains, predicting: "The demand will continue for whole-grain foods packed with natural nutritional value and functional foods quietly fortified with everything from antioxidants to minerals and fiber."

The CCD called "rising stars" the nutrient-rich "super grain" choclo or Peruvian corn, plus "miracle grains" quinoa and amaranth. The chefs said American consumers are as interested in eating healthful foods as they are in trying new tastes.

Nature offers a bounty of grains to cost-effectively upgrade taste, texture and food labels. Some of them are:

  • Amaranth,
      an ancient cereal from the Aztec empire, which naturally contains large amounts of dietary fiber, iron and calcium as well as other vitamins and minerals. It is also naturally high in lysine, methionine and cysteine and excellent for foodservice soups, pilafs and bakery products.

  • Buckwheat,
      also known as kasha, an ancient seed originating from China. It has a slightly tangy flavor and often is processed with the addition of wheat flour to help neutralize its taste. Buckwheat flour often is used for making pancakes, waffles, blintzes and noodles.

  • Farro
      is an unhybridized ancestor of modern wheat from Europe. It has a hearty, nutty flavor and is rapidly gaining popularity with restaurateurs taking their cue from restaurants in Italy. Farro is served in soups and salads by Annie Somerville, executive chef at Greens, a vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco.

  • Millet
      is a grain staple in Asia and Africa. It is a good source of gluten-free protein and contains more iron than any other cereal. Millet is a delicious alternative to rice in soups and pilafs.

  • Quinoa,
      an ancient cereal from the Andes, is rich in protein, high in fiber and particularly rich in the amino acid lysine. It is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins B and E. Quinoa seeds are extremely versatile and may be used to make everything from appetizers to desserts.

  • Spelt,
      closely related to common wheat, originates in the Middle East, and has been popular for decades in Eastern Europe. Higher in protein than wheat, it appears to have a different molecular structure and appears to cause fewer problems than wheat for some individuals intolerant of wheat. Barilla uses its intense nutty, wheat flavor in Barilla Plus multi-grain pasta. Spelt is also excellent for bread making and pizza.

  • Teff
      is an ancient cereal from Ethiopia, with bulk of the tiny grain consisting of the bran and germ. This nutrient dense grain is very high in calcium, phosphorous, iron, copper, aluminum, barium and thiamin. It has an excellent amino acid composition, with lysine levels higher than wheat or barley, and contains no gluten and is therefore appropriate for those with gluten intolerance.

  • Wild rice
  • is not rice but an American grass and staple for the Indians and early settlers. Its deep purplish black color and its subtly nutty flavor make it a good addition to prepared foods such as soups and pilafs, especially for the addition of fiber.
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