SOUTH AFRICA- Yusuf Kewuyemi, a doctoral student at the University of Johannesburg, was the top winner of Mühlenchemie’s debut Flour Innovation Award, meant to celebrate innovative solutions for the sustainable use of wheat and local agricultural commodities. 

Mühlenchemie created this award to celebrate its 100th anniversary with composite flour innovations as its primary objective. 

The award honors scientific work around the production and processing of non-wheat flours and their blends with wheat flour, especially those that use local commodities. The objective is to encourage research into alternatives to wheat flour to achieve greater independence from wheat and global markets.

The first prize, at 5,000 euros (US$5454), went to Yusuf Kewuyemi for his development of 3D-printed crackers from processed whole-grain flour made of African-grown peas and quinoa. 

These plants are highly nutritious and can help reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. To raise the flour’s nutritional content and improve its bioavailability, Kewuyemi used innovative techniques like fermentation and germination. 

The final product is a functional, highly nutritious snack in the form of a 3D-printed cracker. This research shows that traditional crops can be transformed into health-promoting foods using innovative processing techniques.

Twenty-three research projects from nine countries on four continents were submitted for the 2023 Composite Flour Innovation Award, completed from 2019 to 2022, and a jury of international experts evaluated them and selected three awardees.

The impressive diversity of the submissions shows the worldwide importance and relevance of composite flour. The work reflects developments and innovations in the field, and helps us gain a deeper understanding of the use and processing of composite flours,” said Dr. Lutz Popper, originator of the Flour Innovation Award.

The second prize, at 3,000 euros (US$3273), went to Abdulhakim Idris of Jimma University in Jimma, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. In his study “Optimizing the process variables for the production of oat compound biscuits,” he looked into the optimum mix of wheat and oat flour for making biscuits.  

The results showed that a mix ratio of 15% oats to 85% wheat, a temperature of 300°C, and a baking time of 3:30 minutes provide the ideal conditions for making oat/wheat biscuits that do not differ from pure wheat biscuits in their sensory qualities. 

It creates the basis for further commercialization of mixed oat biscuits, the development of applications for other oat products, and the promotion of oats as a little-used grain to fill out the annual grain deficit.

Third place and its 2,000 euro (US$2182) purse went to Saqib Arif of the University of Karachi in Pakistan. His study looked at the potential of composite flour from mixes of underused grains in response to the worldwide rise in wheat prices and increasing sustainability concerns. 

The results show that mixed flours have a better nutrition profile, are rich in fiber and bioactive compounds, and thus represent a promising possibility for reducing dependence on wheat, although challenges remain concerning processability and sensory characteristics.

The research projects submitted demonstrate that composite flour has enormous potential to make the future of our food production sustainable. They show that with intelligent and innovative methods, we can reduce our dependence on wheat without having to give up taste and quality. This look into the future promises many exciting developments, and we’re looking forward to continuing to promote and support progress,” said Dr. Lutz Popper, Chairman of the Jury of the Composite Flour Science Award, in presenting the winning projects.

Dr. Popper, a renowned specialist in enzyme applications in food processing and Scientific Director of MC Mühlenchemie, was ably assisted by high-level experts in food technology and processing, who contributed their scientific and practical experience to the jury’s deliberations. 

These were Jeffrey A. Gwirtz, CEO of JAG Services Inc, Michael Gusko, Global Director Innovation at the GoodMills Group, Rosana Sica, Technical Director of Atime S.A. in Argentina, Sridhar Bhavani of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Professor Olugbenga Ben Ogunmoyela, President of the NGO Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSANI) and CEO of Glytabs Consulting Limited.

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