Improved nutritional value and sensory perception are driving more consumers to switch from white bread to whole grain bread. This consumer shift is expected to grow because a soon-to-be-revised food guide pyramid is anticipated to place a greater emphasis on whole grains. This shift also can be seen in the multitude of whole grain breads being launched by bakeries throughout the United States.
Although some consumers perceive whole grain breads as a new entity in the bread aisle, these dense, hearty loaves have been appearing on store shelves for years. However, a perception and taste problem have always cast them in the shadow of softer and more consumer friendly white bread. This shadow is growing smaller as the population ages and consumer tastes become more sophisticated. Also helping whole grain breads marketability is a growing segment of society that expects their bread to contain healthful ingredients beyond enrichment.
Last but not least, The Atkins diet and similar low-carbohydrate programs-forbid the consumption of refined flour, refined sugar and other starchy products. On the other hand, whole grains, with all of their nutrients intact, offer wholesome carbohydrates that many no-carbohydrate dieters can eat without feeling guilty.
From Earth Grains and Brownberry to French Meadow and Natural Ovens, many bakeries are taking advantage of the growing popularity of whole grain breads.
Healthy Choice Honey Wheat whole grain breads uses highprotein barley flour, and scored well in consumer preference testing.
However, none of these trends would be enough to propel whole grain breads into the mainstream if it were not for recent breakthroughs in whole grains and whole grain processing techniques, which have led to a wide variety of healthful and better tasting products. Bakers also are boosting whole grain bread's appeal by formulating whole grain breads with not only improved nutritional value, but also taste.
Whole grain bread products have experienced significant growth throughout the past twenty years fueled by the wider availability of high quality whole grain products in the marketplace, and an increased understanding of the value of whole grains as a significant contributor to a healthy diet. Leading health authoritiesrecommend three servings per day of whole grain products. Current per capita consumption is currently about one serving per day. This highlights the need for consumer education on the value of incorporating whole grains into a daily diet regimen.
Whole grains are chock full of many healthful nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. In refined flour, many of these nutrients are systematically removed. However, whole grains maintain these important nutrients.
Whole grains also are cholesterol free, high in fiber, and have a protein content of about 10% to 15%. According to one ingredient supplier, whole grains also are lower in calories and net carbohydrates than refined flour. These attributes make it the bread choice for reducedcarbohydrate dieters.
Whole grain formulations
As the demand for whole grain breads increases, so is the task of bakers to incorporate whole grains into bread formulations. Regardless of a bread's nutritional profile, consumer acceptance depends on taste and texture. Delivering wholesome bread that tastes good should be baker's main priority.
Whole grain bread formulation is a complex process because a delicate balance has to be maintained between basic ingredients, flour and water to create a dough with ideal taste and texture. The quality of grain and other additives dictates the quality of the finished product.
This requires bakers to have a complete understanding of the chemistry and functionality of their ingredients. The selection of wrong ingredients and variations in processing parameters may fail to provide adequate textural characteristics to the bread. And, inconsistencies in processing variables during mixing or dough development can result in a more significant difference in the gluten network of whole grains compared to refined grains.
Whole grains should be added at no more than 25% by weight of the flour. Higher percentages can create problems during formulation. Adding whole grains in bread formulation is challenging because the grain's particle size affects the rate of hydration, which influences the fermentation and interferes with gluten development. When formulating whole grain breads, it is imperative for the mixing stage to be handled efficiently because the gluten structure will affect the volume of the bread.
Particle size also is key to organoleptic properties because larger grains can absorb more water, rendering the bread tough, dry and bitter. Adding more water will cause stickiness and difficulty in mixing and makeup. Reduced enzymic activity, which affects dough functionality, is another issue presented during the hydration of large particle-sized grains. To solve this problem, bakers can pretreat their grains. The pretreatment of grains involves processing with water and heat, then partially pregelatinizing the starch for faster hydration and proper dough development.
Fortunately, ingredient manufacturers are busy innovating the processing of whole grains to eliminate any manufacturing problems. They also are providing high-volume bakers with opportunities to design new formulations.
One whole grain supplier has recently developed two new whole grain flours. One of the new flours couples wheat breeding research with a patent-pending milling technology to overcome the flavor, color and textural characteristics of traditional whole grain bakery foods. According to the supplier, the flour delivers all the nutritional benefits of whole grain wheat while meeting the sweeter taste and refined texture expectations of the mainstream bread consumer. This new development provides a whole grain alternative for customers who do not want to give up the taste and texture of white bread.
Another new development in whole grain technology is one supplier's patented high-protein barley flour. The flour has two to three times the fiber of oats and half the starch. It also has 50% more fiber than whole-wheat flour.
One supplier of whole grain ingredients has conducted consumer preference testing on Healthy Choice 7-grain and Honey Wheat whole grain breads, which uses high-protein barley flour. "This product line of consumer bread products delivers 100% whole grain nutrition in wheat and multigrain formats," the whole grain supplier says. "These products are aimed at the consumer who wants a delicious bread with the benefits of whole grain." By using the high-protein barley flour, the supplier says the breads have the increased fiber benefits of whole grain breads and lower net carbohydrates.
Labeling whole grains
Once a whole grain bread has been formulated, it is in the best interest of a bakery to become familiar with labeling regulations concerning whole grains. Whole grains represent an approved health claim, which means that products meeting the claim's requirements can place the following statement on a label: "Diets rich in whole grains and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers."
To qualify for this claim, food products must meet three requirements. First, products must contain 51% or more whole grain ingredients by weight per referenced amount (RA). The products also must have a dietary fiber content of at least 3.0 grams per RA of 55 grams, 2.8 grams per RA of 50 grams, 2.5 grams per RA of 45 grams or 1.7 grams per RA of 35 grams. Finally, products must be low fat, which FDA defines as 3.0 grams or less per RA, and per 50 grams if RA is small.
Although these requirements may appear too strict for a mass-produced bread, many of the country's largest bakers are taking advantage of this health claim. For example, both George Weston's Brownberry brand and Sara Lee's Earth Grains brand have whole grain breads that tout the claim on their packages.
Atkins diet supporters continue to rally against carbohydrates as the primal cause of obesity. Various research studies also have supported a relationship-between refined sugar and starchy products and cardiovascular diseases. This has led more Americans to realize the importance of eating healthful foods. With low-carbohydrate diet supporters continuing to blame carbohydrates for obesity, there is a growing consumer shift toward whole grains. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates with high-fiber contents, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and phytonutrients. Creating whole grain breads can be challenging for bakers, but successfully formulating a whole grain bread with ideal taste and texture can be a gold mine in today's marketplace.
Fitting whole grains into dietary guidelines
Every five years, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes an indepth look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which serves as a basis for the Food Guide Pyramid. The committee charged with making any necessary revisions met for the first time at the end of last year and discussed various topics. Not surprisingly, grain-based foods was one of these topics.
The latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released in 2000, and states that "Foods made from grains help form the foundation of a nutritious diet." This statement is corroborated by the Food Guide Pyramid, and its placement of grains at the base of the pyramid, with a recommended 6 to 11 servings a day.
With the recent influx of doctors, dieticians and opportunists rushing to the anti-carbohydrate bandwagon, it is not surprising that an air of uncertainty prevails when discussing grain-based foods' place in the 2005 edition of the guidelines.
At its first round of meetings, the committee in charge of revisions posed this question for the 2005 Dietary Guidelines: "Do the current Dietary Guidelines and the Food Guide Pyramid place too much emphasis on grains?"
In future discussions on this topic, the controversy will most certainly focus on refined grains and their role in the growing obesity problem in the country. However, the role of whole grains in the American diet is expected to gain prominence because of the proven correlation between whole grain consumption and a reduced risk of heart disease.
Already, the proposed revisions advise consumers to eat "whole grains" and "other grains" in equal quantities. Existing guidelines encourage consumers to "choose a variety of grains daily, especially whole grains."
If whole grains gain prominence on the 2005 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, bakers can expect an increased demand for these nutritious breads.