Aside from their white color, breaded products using refined, bleached flour stand apart from whole wheat flour counterparts due to a milder, slightly sweeter flavor; reduced bran spec visibility; a softer, smoother, more consistent texture; and greater malleability for shaped products.

However, refined flour supplies little dietary fiber, an ingredient that can help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, certain cancers and improve bowel function.

Imagine enjoying a cinnamon roll, slice of pizza or muffin that appears to be based on refined bleach flour, all the while knowing that this specific serving could top off the recommended daily value of dietary fiber.

After years of development and much anticipation, ConAgra Food Ingredients' (Omaha, Neb.) Ultragrain[tm] Whole Wheat White flour is now commercially available. Ultragrain melds the pleasant sensory benefits of refined white flour with the nutritious benefits of whole grain flour.

Some wheat breads contain less than 20% whole wheat flour; refined flour rounds out the flour portion. Ultragrain is 100% whole wheat flour. “It gives [consumers] permission to enjoy baked goods, knowing that there is sound nutrition behind them,” says Don Brown, vice president of marketing for milled ingredients at ConAgra Food Ingredients.

The company's patent-pending process, which reduces the particle size of the whole wheat grain (germ and bran) to a size similar to refined flour, has been under development since 1995. The flour's texture is the result of the process and its taste is from the selection and development of the proprietary Platte wheat.

“It is very important to us that Ultragrain perform functionally in bakery products. The industrial baker should find it easy to work with and make the products he is accustomed to making, but with the nutritional benefits of a whole-grain product,” informs Brown.

The union of the milling and wheat selection processes has been a recent development that has allowed ConAgra to bring this product to market. “We applied the process using more traditional wheat varieties and felt we got only half the equation. We got the texture that mimicked the refined flour, but it didn't quite have the taste that we wanted to get,” adds Brown.

As a result, ConAgra developed Platte wheat, a hard white winter wheat--specifically chosen for its flavor--to be used as the foundation wheat for the current Ultragrain flour. The company brought the Platte wheat program to commercial scale within the last year. Platte wheat also can be used in combination with a number of different other wheat varieties to produce a desired end product.

ConAgra plans to extend the line of Ultragrain flours beyond what is currently marketed today to include an assortment of soft wheat flours for pastries, cakes and durum wheat for pasta. “It will really evolve into a family of flours that we think will be very compelling with consumers,” says Brown.

“The interesting areas that will be fun to watch develop will be applications where you wouldn't expect to find whole grains (such as sweet good applications) and that can be marketed as indulgent with a healthy component,” says Brown.

Ultragrain is an all natural, non-GMO product that contains all the nutrients found in whole wheat. It can easily be enriched, for instance, with folic acid.

“It has the potential to revolutionize the baking industry,” says Brown. “Whole grain nutrition, we believe, has the power to be a sustainable food for a long time.”

For more information:
ConAgra Food Ingredients, Amy Marr