The R&D organization has filed a proposal with its members for a three year project to develop formulations and processing methods that will enable bakers to use wheat low in gluten-making proteins.
Gary Tucker, head of the Baking & Cereal Processing department at Campden BRI, said the idea for the project was sparked by the poor UK wheat harvest that forced many British manufacturers to drop local source claims and import wheat from elsewhere.
“Our climate is just so variable. In continental Europe the weather can also be variable, although less so than our little island…For the UK, this project could be very important because of the weather,” Tucker told BakeryandSnacks.com.
Earlier this year, Hovis was forced to cut its 100% British wheat pledge after a poor harvest led the company to source elsewhere to maintain quality loaves. Wheat quality concerns also forced Weetabix to halt production on some of its products.
Manufacturers are opting to import wheat from elsewhere and the UK is forecast to import a total of 2.26 MT of wheat in the 2012/13 crop year, according to UK government department Defra.
Taking a leaf out of gluten-free…
Tucker said he expects a formulation and process to be grasped within the first year of the project, because of Campden’s knowledge in gluten-free.
Formulations and processing techniques used in the gluten-free sector – like supplementing with hydrocolloids and gentle baking – could be transferred, he said.
“If we can use technology transfer from the gluten-free sector to make UK wheat more consistent for bread making, that’s got to be quite a benefit,” he said.
Gentle baking would take longer, but ensure that the hydrocolloids used to give structure strength would not be damaged, he said.
“It’s asking a lot to be able to do this. But I do think it’s do-able,” Tucker said.
Local sourcing, cost and sustainability
The main benefit for bakers would be that they are able to continue to use UK wheat irrespective of varying quality; “it’s that correction action to keep consistency.”
Tucker added that there would also be sustainability and cost benefits for manufacturers.
Despite the use of additional ingredients like hydrocolloids, there will still be a cost benefit because high quality wheat is more expensive than wheat low in protein, or of poorer quality, he said.
“It also hits the sustainability buttons because lower-protein wheat doesn’t require as much nitrogen fertilizer.”
The biggest hurdle will be labeling
While use of hydrocolloids to strengthen the wheat would enable bakers to use lower quality flour, Tucker said there would be labeling implications that may not be welcomed by the market.
“One of the biggest hurdles to jump over will be the labeling issue and what retailers think of it. There’s been a big drive towards clean label, and you could argue that this is going in the wrong direction,” he said. Campden will investigate a range of hydrocolloids – both synthetic and natural.
“It’s all about choices – it’s about weighing up all the different factors; if it means consistency and sticking to UK wheat then that means a lot. If it’s cheaper, that’s also important,” he said.
The project will be kick-started at the end of 2013, if approved by member companies.