KANSAS CITY — Wheat’s association with flour to bake bread dates back thousands of years, but food formulators may seek to explore ways for other wheat-based ingredients to help them create products for today’s trends. Think germ, bran, fiber and protein, all extracted from wheat, for use in products that offer plant protein and high fiber levels. Potential also exists to save on costs by replacing other ingredients and even improving texture in meat alternatives.
Wheat germ was a key aspect of a recent acquisition. Panhandle Milling, L.L.C., Dawn, Texas, in 2018 acquired Viobin, L.L.C., a manufacturer of defatted wheat germ and specialty oils. Based in Monticello, Ill., Viobin operated a wheat germ plant in Michigan City, Ind.
“When acquiring Viobin in 2018, we knew we had a diamond in the rough,” said Peter Bisaccia, president of Panhandle Milling. “This was a business that has over an 80-year history and is well-recognized in many different industries. Our wheat germ oil is a common constituent in several cosmetic and hair care products, nutritional bars and supplements for animals and humans alike. Our defatted wheat germ is a key ingredient in popular cereals, snacks, granola bars and crackers throughout our industry. We saw many synergies to integrate Viobin into our existing blending, grains and flour businesses.”
Viobin defatted wheat germ, which is at least 26% protein, is a vegan source of protein for use in baked foods, and it is non-allergenic, said Tim Devey, marketing director, Panhandle Milling. It also is 16% fiber and contains flavonoid antioxidants, B vitamins and minerals. A two-tablespoon (19-gram) serving of defatted wheat germ is a good source of fiber, iron and magnesium and an excellent source of zinc.
Defatted wheat germ has at least two times more protein compared to whole wheat and other cereal grains, making it useful as a cost-effective way to boost the protein level, Mr. Devey said. Ten grams of defatted wheat germ has at least 2.6 grams of protein and 1.6 grams of fiber.
“Defatted wheat germ is not only nutrient dense but has been toasted to create a nutty, flavorful shelf-stable ingredient that can also add flavor and texture to grain foods, including crackers, ready-to-eat and hot cereals, breakfast biscuits, cookies, muffins, pancake mixes and sandwich bread,” Mr. Devey said.
Lightly toasted defatted wheat germ has a golden tan color and slightly sweet, nutty flavor that works well in crackers and bars, he said. Dark toasted defatted wheat germ has a deep brown color and rich flavor for use as a spice extender or in hot beverages. The granular particle size gives a wholesome appearance and texture to baked foods such as crackers, bread, tortillas, cookies and muffins. The suggested starting level for recipe development is 10% to 15% flour basis.
“Multigrain buttermilk pancake mix gets the benefits of a welcome nutty flavor and heartier texture from the addition of 20% flour basis granular defatted wheat germ,” Mr. Devey said.
Siemer Milling Co., Teutopolis, Ill., also offers wheat germ, which is nutrient-rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins, said Lucy Wang-Hill, R.&D. project manager for Siemer Milling. High levels of vitamins such as thiamine can improve nerve system and heart function. Vitamin E provides benefits for skin, hair and eyes and acts as an antioxidant.
Siemer Milling makes the wheat germ from soft red winter wheat. Potential applications include pancakes, bread, energy bars and pet food, Ms. Wang-Hill said.
Because of the heat treatment that Siemer applies on wheat germ, the activity of enzymes is reduced and/or denatured.
“This will improve the fermentation process in the applications of bread and similar products due to less enzyme interference,” Ms. Wang-Hill said.
Both fiber and protein content may draw consumers to notice wheat germ. More than 85% of respondents in the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2019 Food and Health Survey said they perceived fiber as healthy. More than 70% said they perceived protein from plant sources as healthy.
Siemer Milling offers another ingredient high in fiber. Wheat bran is rich in cellulose, hemicellulose, pentosan, protein and minerals, Ms. Wang-Hill said. It adds fiber for digestive health benefits. Potential applications are cookies, extruded bars, cereal and pet food. The wheat bran is made from soft red winter wheat.
“Pentosan and related fibers can hold water multiple times their weight,” Ms. Wang-Hill said. “Wheat bran therefore can be used to increase moisture content in baked goods, retard the rate of staling and retrogradation, and control cookie spread in formulas that have extra water incorporated.”
Stabilized wheat bran also has reduced activity of polyphenol oxidase (P.P.O.), a contributor to color darkening and the appearance of speckles in the finished products during storage phase, she said. Therefore, stabilized wheat bran can help extend shelf life for certain grain-based foods.
A favorable F.D.A. ruling
Staying with the benefits of fiber, an ingredient sourced from wheat gained a favorable Food and Drug Administration ruling in March. The agency said it had determined cross-linked phosphorylated RS4 helps reduce insulin levels following a meal containing a carbohydrate that raises blood glucose levels.
The action came in response to a citizen petition from MGP Ingredients (MGPI), Atchison, Kas. In the petition MGPI argued that its Fibersym ingredient met the F.D.A.’s fiber definition, which includes isolated or synthetic non-digestible carbohydrates (with three or more monomeric units) that the F.D.A. determines to have physiological effects that are beneficial to human health. The F.D.A. in March determined phosphorylated RS4, and Fibersym, provided such effects.
Fibersym demonstrated lowering of post-prandial blood glucose and insulin levels in three clinical studies involved consumption of Fibersym-containing sugar snap cookies and nutritional bars, said Ody Maningat, Ph.D., vice-president of ingredients R.&D. and chief science officer at MGPI.
Fibersym has been shown to add fiber to chocolate chip cookies, nutritional bars, chocolate peanut butter crunch bars and a honey, nuts and oats bar.
“Fibersym’s benefits are its neutral flavor, ease of incorporation and no major processing changes,” said Michael Buttshaw, vice-president of ingredients sales and marketing at MGPI.
Fibersym added at 7.9% in a pizza crust formula delivers 4 grams of fiber per 55-gram serving size. There are no problems with adverse flavor, and no adjusted are need on water absorption.
“Fibersym is highly compatible with wheat flour-based ingredients,” Mr. Buttshaw said.
Fiber content reached 7 grams per 55-gram serving in a pasta formula containing 84% semolina, 3.4% wheat protein isolate and 12.6% Fibersym. Adding Fibersym helped impart textural firmness and reduced cooking loss of the cooked pastas due to the restricted swelling of Fibersym.
“Fibersym, being a wheat starch-based fiber source, is very compatible with flour-based ingredients like semolina or farina,” Dr. Maningat said. “The wheat starch in Fibersym has the same granular size, shape, distribution of sizes, surface properties and gelatinization pattern as the wheat starch in the wheat flour.”
Dr. Maningat, when speaking at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting in New Orleans in June, said MGPI will focus on four areas: fiber, clean label, low-carbohydrate and plant-based protein. MGPI offers wheat protein isolates under the Arise brand. They have been shown to reduce fat absorption, increase moisture retention, increase dough extensibility, improve dough development and improve processing tolerance.
Manildra Group USA, Leawood, Kas., offers GemPro wheat proteins that are 85% to 90% protein, said Brook Carson, vice-president of product development. They provide a range of functional strength and process benefits: boosting protein levels, improving dough rheology and enhancing texture.
GemPro Plus contains 85% protein content and improves the machinability of dough, especially whole grain. With 90% protein, GemPro Prime-W aids in whipping for aeration and can enhance the texture and protein content of bakery products. GemPro Prime-E also contains 90% protein. It works well in applications where the gluten network and proper sheeting characteristics are important.
“A major benefit of GemPro wheat proteins is that it is a range of proteins,” Ms. Carson said. “By selecting one or more protein in the range you can meet most textural or processing benefits.”
Isolating the protein from the wheat requires a washing process.
“Flour is made into a dough, causing the gluten to come together and form its signature matrix,” Ms. Carson said. “Once the gluten matrix is formed, the starch component of the flour is washed out. It is a simple, clean process similar to the process to make vital wheat gluten. To create GemPro wheat proteins, we continue to rely on those inherent attributes of gluten to make slight modifications, resulting in highly functional proteins.”
For a potential cost-savings benefit, wheat protein isolates have been shown to work as an egg replacer in formulations. It has been shown to replace up to 100% of the eggs in pasta while the pasta maintained a firm texture. Cookies, depending on the type and texture, are another 100% egg replacement possibility. In pancakes GemPro Plus provides strength and tenderness that is similar to the functionality of eggs, according to Manildra. When replacing eggs at a 1:1 ratio in brownies, GemPro Plus helps to maintain the volume and structure and the silky, smooth mouthfeel expected in a brownie.
Egg and egg ingredient prices may fluctuate. The demand for egg replacers shot up in 2015 after the H5N5 highly pathogenic avian influenza struck chickens in the United States. Prices for wholesale graded eggs nearly doubled and surpassed $2.40 per dozen.
Defatted wheat germ also may save on costs. It has been shown to replace a portion of the cocoa powder in brownies and other cocoa-containing products, Mr. Devey said.
Elizabeth Arndt, Ph.D., director of research and development for Panhandle Milling, recommends formulators start low, replacing no more than 5% to 10% of the cocoa powder.
“(You) may be able to go higher, but this is a good place to start,” she said.
Besides baked foods, wheat-based ingredients may benefit meat alternative products as well. Barclays Research forecasts the category globally to rise to $140 billion in 2029 from $14 billion today.
MGPI used extrusion technology to develop textured wheat proteins under the TruTex brand for use in formulating vegetarian or vegan meatless products. The ingredients are sold in several forms and differ in size, shape, color, texture, hydrate rate, hydration capacity and bulk density. Shapes vary from granules to chips/flakes or shreds of different sizes.
TruTex in its natural (uncolored), optimally hydrated form exhibits a fibrous texture that mimics chicken meat texture. The malt- or caramel-colored TruTex resembles pork or beef meat.