Sprouted Grains: Not So Fast!

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Understandably, the baking and cereal products industries are very excited about sprouted grains these days. Well, it is a new, healthy and otherwise compelling narrative about whole grain foods and other seeds, like beans. Major companies such as Kellogg’s (Kashi) and J.M. Smucker (Enray) have already committed themselves to what they perceive to be a band-wagon growth opportunity. Raw food enthusiasts are big on sprouts. But, call me contrarian! There is ample reason not to get too excited too quickly about sprouted grains. They provide a good story line, but nutritional claims, cost, product safety and consumer awareness remain serious barriers to growth. New market exuberance may be premature.

“Sprouted grains” was a big big topic of discussion at the recently concluded AACC International’s (i.e., cereal chemists) Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN (October 19-22). On the plus side, sprouted grain breads and other cereal products have been gaining a lot of attention, at least in the food press. The arguments for sprouted grains are primarily nutritional, though good taste very importantly factors in, as well. Sprouting is the process whereby seeds, when moisturized, arouse themselves from dormancy and reconfigure themselves for rapid growth. The seed’s fiber, starch and phytates break down, releasing antioxidants, sugars and minerals. Starch breaks down into simple sugars that either sweeten the sprout and can be flushed away reduce glycemic value. Some vitamin contents are increased. The process typically involves soaking seeds between 1 – 4 days to induce sprouting, followed by a heat-kill step to knock out enzymatic activity, and milling to create a flour.

Here are some of the concerns cited at the conference:

  1. The process of adding water, holding, kilning (i.e removing the added water), and milling is expensive. Yes, the beer industry can do it, but beer isn’t cheap and it enjoys deservedly high margins. Sprouted grains are not low cost ingredients.
  2. Yes, nutritional value is enhanced, but by what standards? Bob Hanson of Briess Malt & Ingredients Co., noted in a highly detailed and engaging presentation that sprouting is a highly variable process for which nutritional value will vary greatly according to the length of time and other sprouting conditions used (i.e., was the seed germinated for four hours or four days?). Developing uniform, standardized levels of nutritional enhancement for which suppliers and nutritional labels will be held accountable remains a major challenge. Plus, as pointed out by retired-but-not-really nutrition professor Julie Jones, an academic for whose intellectual rigor and honesty I retain enormous respect even when we disagree, given the cost and use level of sprouted grains, how will their enhanced nutritional value make a significant dietary difference? We don’t know, for example, how effective the released polyphenolic antioxidants (likely released from the breakdown of arabinoxylan bran structures) are in human physiology. Nor do we know how to balance the potential cancer-inhibiting actions of phytate against the mineral-releasing breakdown of phytates during sprouting.
  3. Probably the most important challenge is safety. Grains and beans come in from the field with imbedded toxins and trailing pathogenic microbes. In some cases, the microbes are imbedded inside the seeds. Sprouting provides an ideal medium for their outgrowth. The beer industry resolves this by boiling the seed wort; the baking industry has no such option. According to University of Nebraska food science professor Andreia Bianchini, kilning of the sprouted grains does not significantly reduce microbial counts. Although reading between the lines of the Hanson presentation suggested to me that Briess has resolved this problem to its own satisfaction, the consensus appeared to be that sprout safety remains a serious liability issue for the industry at large. I have no doubt that good solutions exist (I can think of some off the top of my head), but much work still needs to be done.
  4. Finally, there is consumer awareness and demand. Sprouted grains are not new – they’ve been percolating in the cereal foods industry for at-least a decade, promoted by companies such as Food For Life Baking Company’s Ezekiel bread, which has developed a loyal following. A look at Internet chatter trends for “sprouted grains” provides the following profile:

Sprouted Grain TrendAlert OCT-15This graph shows a steadily increasing rise in total Internet chatter (blue line) over time, combined with low VIC TrendAlert™ volatility (red line). Accelerating growth in Internet chatter combined with low volatility is indicative of stable growth and should be promising. That’s the good news. However, at this time, the term “sprouted grain” is generating only 25,000 to 30,000 Google hits per month. Compare that to “rice” (~1.2 million hits per month) or “quinoa” (~600,000 hits per month), and you realize quickly that “sprouted grain” has a long way to go before it becomes the talk of the town. Internet chatter matters.

Sprouted grain is an interesting and promising ingredient category with a compelling narrative. Here’s my take: its time hasn’t yet come!

Gainers and Losers: Dietary Trends and Proteins

Diet trends rank high in consumer consciousness and food and beverage purchase decisions. This can be direct or indirect, as social clusters exchange information and influence each other’s food preferences: friends influence friends. Some diet trends reflect value systems (e.g., veganism); some reflect self-actualization (weight-control diets); some reflect health concerns (e.g. gluten-free diets) and still others draw on scientifically generated, whole-health recommendations (e.g., the DASH diet). Two key questions are: which diets predominate in the consumer consciousness and how will they affect consumer food and beverage choices?

One way to track consumer diet preferences is through the Internet. Internet chatter provides a “big data” measure of what society is talking about, ergo its priorities. On May 5th, Daniel Best of BEST VANTAGE Inc. will demonstrate how Internet chatter analysis, using tools developed by the financial industry to analyze stock market activity, can be utilized to quantify and prioritize dietary trend activity in a presentation titled “Proteins: Quantifying the Odds for Market Success” [Global Food Forums’ Protein Trends & Technologies Seminar, May 5-6 in the Chicago area].

The presentation’s prioritization and analysis of forty diet trends should help companies identify and react to major trend shifts on a near-real time basis and also help them avoid Black Swan events. For example, the graph presented below ranks leading diet trends by their average annual growth rates over a 10-year period. But how should these 10-year trends influence near term-decision making? The tools presented should help quantify and rationalize strategic planning protocols as well as provide guidance on how to better engage in the battle of ideas on the Internet. Internet chatter analysis will provide valuable insights into consumers’ protein preferences, with respect to sourcing, processing and consumption.

10-yr Annual Diet Trends

Daniel Best (BEST VANTAGE Inc.) to speak at April 2014 “Proteins Trends and Technologies” Seminar.

Daniel Best will speak at the Global Food Forum’s 2nd Annual “Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar” (April 8-9, in Arlington Heights, IL) on the topic of how to establish practical working criteria in choosing between different protein ingredient options.

The food industry will soon face a plethora of different protein ingredient selections, even as global demands for protein are soaring. Best’s presentation, “Sooo many proteins, so little time: how to choose” is designed to help food, beverage and nutritional industry professionals make clear-eyed choices based not just on protein functionality, but business and legal considerations as well.

The first day (April 8th) of the two-day Protein Trends and Technologies Seminar, “Strategic Insights for Business Growth”, will emphasize marketing, business and regulatory aspects of the surging protein ingredients industry. The second day, “Formulating with Proteins”, will focus on the technical and quality challenges of incorporating protein ingredients into finished food, beverage and nutritional products. For more information on this conference and how to register, please visit:

http://www.cvent.com/events/2014-protein-trends-technologies-seminar/agenda-623c7a87b9584acb8826206606a2bf85.aspx

Note: This 2nd Annual Seminar continues 2013’s highly acclaimed “Proteins” seminar hosted by Global Food Forums, a complete Conference Report on which can be downloaded from this Link:

http://www.globalfoodforums.com/wp-content/uploads/2013_Protein_Trends__Technologies_Seminar_Report.pdf

Pulses in foods…summarized.

BEST VANTAGE Inc.’s fourth and final “How To:” Pulse WEBINAR, sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council through a grant conferred by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, was presented November 7th, with a record number of attendees. All four webinars in this series will be available for review in .pdf and/or presentation format in the near future at the link provided at the end of this post…so please stay posted.RandDTrends3

Although the focus of this webinar was on extruded products, ranging from pasta to puffed snacks, the presentation also reviewed previously addressed bakery, battered and fried products and beverage formulations as well the overall trend toward more pulse consumption in Western societies. Please note also that, whereas these webinars addressed peas, chickpeas and lentils, there have also been significant developments in the use of dry bean (Phaseolus sp.) – derived ingredients.

This most recent webinar #4 addressed the importance of amylose-to-amylopectin ratios in pulse starches and the effects of proteins, dietary fiber, moisture and barrel temperature conditions on the expansion properties of HTST (high-temperature, short-time) extruded snacks and breakfast cereals. The webinar also looked at low-shear extrusion…specifically, the positive contributions of pulse flours on the textural qualities, cooking properties and nutritional value of pasta. Much of this work has been undertaken at the North Dakota State University-affiliated Northern Crops Institute (NCI), which can be linked at www.northern-crops.com

In our view pulses are perfectly positioned to exploit a unique convergence of consumer trends in Western countries, that include: economy-driven price concerns, increased dietary protein consumption; heightened food safety awareness; sensitivity to environmental concerns and growing interest in ethnic-fusion cuisines. These trends will continue to stoke interest in pulses and pulse ingredients for the foreseeable future.

Here is a top-line overview of our four-part series:

 Pulses are going mainstream

Pulses increasingly appear in center-plate entrees, soups, salads and side dishes. New product applications for pulse ingredients include breakfast cereals, nutritional products, sweet baked goods, breads, nutrition bars, extruded snacks, crackers, snack chips, battered and fried goods, beverages and nutritional fitness products. Representative formulations were provided.

Quality standards

Pulses constitute a relatively new growth category in foods and international quality benchmarks have yet to be standardized. North America’s agricultural environment, combined with its production, shipping, handling and technical support infrastructure, has transformed it into a world leader in the production and export of high-quality dry beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas.

Strong consumer drivers

These include: strong demand for high-protein foods; the search for overall improved nutritional value; increased awareness of the importance of Glycemic Index and an aversion to the presence of gluten and other allergenic ingredients in foods. Pulse ingredients do not require allergen warning statements on food packages and examples were provided of how they can replace egg, milk and soy ingredients in a range of food formulations…at (usually) a considerably lower cost. Replacing cereal flours with pulse flours will significantly improve the nutritional profile of products and renders possible nutritional content claims for protein and dietary fiber. Finally, North American-grown pulses are environmentally friendly, as they are used as rotational crops that rejuvenate soils and that require very low levels (if any) of agricultural chemical inputs.

Functional pulse ingredients

Pulses differ from legumes, such as soy or peanut (groundnut), in that they contain significant quantities of starch and virtually no oil. Pulses contain high levels (22-30%) of highly functional proteins (similar to soy proteins) and a significant portion of their starch fraction is in the form of resistant starch. Already, a plethora of highly functional pulse ingredients have been made available to product developers from a growing number of ingredient suppliers, including starches, proteins, dietary fibers, brans and starch-protein combinations. This is only the beginning.

Cost advantages

The relatively low cost of pulses as compared to other protein (milk, eggs, soy) or even starch sources (corn, tapioca) provides a low-cost basis for developing further-processed pulse ingredients. In addition, they exhibit relatively low price volatility, which protects processed foods against commodity price swings. That being said, there can still occur temporary price spikes for the more-highly processed ingredients such as pea protein isolate, which are reflective of rapidly increasing demand outstripping production capacity (as has happened in the last two years with pea protein isolate). Nonetheless, such spikes are temporary and limited to the more narrow pulse ingredient segments. The industry is still catching up to increasing consumer demands for food product attributes that only pulse-based ingredients are best positioned to satisfy. It will take time.

A review of this Webinar #4 was published by Food Navigator and can be found at: http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Markets/Pulses-hit-mainstream-with-improved-nutrition-gluten-free-applications

The Link for the four archived webinars can be found at the US Dry Pea & Lentil Council’s website under the “Food Industry Tab” at: www.pea-lentil.com/archives.

Pulse Ingredients in Extruded Snacks and Other Products

Two cooksThis final of four, highly-acclaimed FREE WEBINARS sponsored by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, through a grant provided by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture will be presented Thursday, November 7th.

In the first three “how to use pulses as food and beverage ingredients” WEBINARS, we reviewed:

  1. Growing consumer concerns about food allergens
  2. The ability of pulse ingredients to substitute for expensive and allergenic ingredients such as wheat gluten, nuts, dairy and eggs
  3. Formula cost benefits of using relatively low-cost pulse ingredients
  4. How to use pulse protein ingredients to boost nutritional value and improve ingredient functionality in foods and beverages
  5. How to apply pulse ingredients to specific food and beverage formulations

Already recognized for their nutritional and culinary value in much of the developing world, pulse (i.e., dry pea, lentil and chickpea) ingredients have been gaining interest among food, beverage manufacturers, nutritional product suppliers and foodservice companies as food ingredients. Among the consumer benefits driving this trend are their:

  • Uniquely rich nutritional profiles (high protein, high dietary fiber and low fat content)
  • Relatively low cost
  • Lack of allergen-labeling requirements
  • Functional versatility as ingredient in a wide variety of products
  • Their role in ethnic foods with popular appeal.
  • Environmental benefits (they are non-GMO and produced using sustainable agricultural practices)

In sum, peas, chickpeas and lentils are developing quite a culinary cachet that conforms well with many consumer expectations regarding nutrition, food and beverage product formulation, food ingredient safety and integrity and social values.

This FINAL 45-minute WEBINAR will focus on the carbohydrate components of pulses and discuss how pulse selection and processing variables can affect the performance of pulses in extruded pastas, snacks and breakfast cereals.

Also to be addressed will be the very low glycemic index (GI) value of pulses as compared to other grain and seed ingredients, its implications for public health and nutrition and how best to protect the low glycemic index value of pulse ingredients in your food formulations.

Finally, the WEBINAR will summarize this WEBINAR series, including a quick review of product formulation guidelines for bakery, beverage, batters & breaded products.

To learn more about this WEBINAR and to register for this event, visit this link:

http://www.pea-lentil.com/webinars 

(Note: WEBINAR registration is limited to 250 participants)

 

Pulse Proteins in Value-Added Food and Beverage Product Development

RandDTrends3FREE WEBINAR TOMORROW

Tuesday

SEPTEMBER 24, 2013

 

Legume foods represent the perfect protein food in this conflicted era of economic stress, high-value food expectations and environmental responsibility. Here is an opportunity to learn the how and why of incorporating  pulse and pulse ingredients into food product development

This addresses the third in a series of four WEBINARS that address how to use pulses and pulse ingredients in food product development.

Legume foods (soybeans excepted) fall under the category of “pulses”, which include peas and chickpeas and lentils. The distinguishing feature of pulses as foods is that 1) they are high in protein content (20-30%), high in dietary fiber (9-17%) and very low in fat. They are also highly sustainable crops. As legumes, they restore nitrogen to soils and, in most large pulse-producing regions, require only minimum if any applications of agricultural chemicals.

Because pulses are not listed as allergenic foods, they can easily replace other allergenic protein ingredients, such as egg, milk, soy, nutmeats and wheat gluten.  Their well-balanced primary ingredient components (protein, starch and dietary fiber) are also highly functional, contributing thickening, emulsification, shelf-life extension and other properties to foods.  Finally, pulse-based ingredients are low cost.

Today, “protein” is a very hot food commodity, as consumers actively seek to increase their dietary protein consumption. Why?

Pulse proteins are nutritionally beneficial

The U.S. “2012 Food & Health Survey on Consumer Attitudes Toward Food Safety, Nutrition & Health”, conducted by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), found that 56% of consumers actively look for protein content on a food ingredient label and 48% actively try to consume a specific amount of or as much as possible protein in their food choices. The reasons given for protein’s appeal varied:

  • 88% recognize that protein helps to build muscle.
  • 69% recognized that protein “helps people to feel full”
  • 60% recognized that “high-protein diets can help with weight loss.”

On that note, pulse proteins offer  high-nutritional value, as measured by nutritional “Protein Score”: pulses offer all of the essential amino acids and a very significant component of the branched chain amino acids associated with muscle growth and healing.

Unfortunately, 25% of respondents also disclosed that they believed “Foods that contain protein are too expensive to consume as much as I would like.” For young, lower-income or overweight consumers, this number well-exceeded 30%. Well, that may be true for meat, egg and dairy products, but it is not the case for pulse foods and pulse protein ingredients.

Pulses proteins are highly cost-effective.

Pulses and pulse ingredients can be used to very cost-effectively boost the protein value of foods: for example, an analysis of the cost-per-unit protein of pulses found that they generally cost between 1/10th to 1/20th the cost-per-unit of protein in egg and milk ingredients. In addition, they exhibit very low price volatility, which is helps food and beverage-company purchasing agents sleep better at night. This, too, renders them highly desirable in food and beverage formulations.

On Tuesday, September 24, 1:00 – 2:00 PM U.S. Central Standard Time, the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council will host the third in its series of four FREE “Food R&D Trends” WEBINARS that offer practical “how-to” guidance on using pulse ingredients as value-added protein sources in food and beverage formulations. Pulses can play a very important role in cost-effectively satisfying growing consumer interest in the protein and amino acid value of their foods.

The WEBINAR will address the following:

• Pulses as Food Ingredients

• Why the Growing Consumer Interest in Proteins

• The Nutritional and Nutraceutical Value of Pulse Proteins

• How to Use Pulse Ingredients in High-Protein Food and Beverage Applications

• Food and Beverage Formulations

For more details on this FREE WEBINAR and how to register and participate, please follow this link: http://www.pea-lentil.com/webinars