Health experts advise that grains are a healthy necessity in every diet

Whole grains include grains like wheat, corn, rice, oats, barley, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, rye – when these foods are eaten in their “whole” form.  All grains start life as whole grains. In their natural state growing in the fields, whole grains are the entire seed of a plant, containing three parts: the bran, germ, and endosperm.

A nutritionally rich food

Whole grains are rich in nutrients that confer a wide range of health benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease. A 10-year study published in PubMed of 17,424 adults observed that those who ate the highest proportion of whole grains in relation to their total carb intake had a 47% lower risk of heart disease. Furthermore, the fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidants in whole grains have been reported to reduce the risk of stroke. Eating fiber-rich foods can also help fill you up and prevent overeating. The high fiber content in whole grains and products made from them make them more filling than refined grains, and research suggests that they may lower the risk of obesity and also type 2 diabetes. Fiber has also been shown to support healthy digestion in various ways. Primarily, it helps give bulk to stools and lowers your risk of constipation. Additionally, some types of fiber in grains act as prebiotics. This means they help feed your beneficial gut bacteria, which are important for digestive health.

Milling strips grains of their value

While traditionally all grain was consumed whole, the invention of industrialized roller mills in the late 19th century changed the way we process grains.  Milling strips away the bran and germ and leaves only the soft, easy-to-digest endosperm. Refining wheat creates fluffy flour that makes light, airy breads and pastries, but the resulting highly processed grains are much lower in nutritional quality. Although some nutrients may be added back by fortification, other nutritious components of whole grains such as phytochemicals cannot be replaced.

 Without the fibrous bran, the grain is easier to chew. The germ is removed because of its fat content, which can limit the shelf life of processed wheat products. “By having large-scale refinement technology, we observed that the fat, B vitamins and proteins in whole grain spoiled the flour, so the shelf life was much shorter. This wasn’t a problem before because we were consuming it as it was produced, but now we’re able to create very large amounts of flour and baked goods way ahead of what we needed so we needed to extend the shelf-life of that flour,” said Sarah Corwin, PhD, RD, senior principal scientist, plant-based, Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition.

New Products flood Market

Bakery, breakfast cereals and snacks now account for the largest number of new product introductions composed of whole grains, with side dishes and meals gaining quickly. A growing popularity of nutritious breakfast options is driving the consumption of multi-grain cereals containing seeds, beans, and grains and companies looking to differentiate their breakfast offerings are increasingly exploring whole grains for innovative ideas.

When it comes to breakfast, it doesn’t get more basic than bread which has been a staple food around the world for thousands of years. When it comes to choosing bread, it is best to prioritize whole wheat and whole grain options and Kenya’s market leader in the manufacturing of bread, Broadway Bakery, has long prided itself on its high-quality bread products. The company in February 2021, launched the first of its kind 50/50 bread, made from a combination of white bread flour and whole grain flour. During the bread’s launch, Broadway Bakery Managing Director Bimal Shah said, “We ensure that we blend high protein wheat sourced from 100 per cent whole grain. Hence, there is no need to add extra enzymes or chemical improvers to improve the quality of the flour and bread”.

South African bakery, Albany Bakeries also offers its ‘superior’ 100% Smooth Wholegrain Sliced Brown Bread Loaf that has been specially designed to mimic the classic texture of white bread while maintaining the famous flavor and nutrition of brown bread. Another bread manufacturer, Rudi’s Organic Bakery recently launched its Organic Seeded Multigrain Bread made with organic whole wheat flour, organic rolled oats, organic flax seeds, organic pumpkin seeds, organic sunflower seeds and organic poppy seeds. It also features a 24-hour fermentation process that the company claims benefits gut health, as well as yields a richer flavor and softer texture.

Cereal is yet another breakfast favorite. According to Grandviewresearch, the global breakfast cereal market size was valued at US$ 36.5 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.7% from 2022 to 2030. The Weetabix cereal company is one of the pioneering companies in the healthy breakfast space and its Weetabix cereal biscuits made with wholegrain wheat and barley and fortified with vitamins and iron has long been lauded as the healthiest breakfast cereal there is. The 85-year-old company is diversifying its portfolio to include other healthy whole grains such as muesli, a ready-to-eat cereal made with whole grain cereals and a variety of other ingredients like oats, dried fruit, wheat flakes and nuts. Launched under its Alpen brand, this Swiss-style muesli is “taking breakfast to new heights” with its simple ingredient list: whole grain oats, whole grain wheat, raisins, almonds, and hazelnuts.

Whole grains are also the star ingredients of three new cereals from Kellogg Co. “Whether you’re in the mood for something toasty and sweet or fancy something fruity, Frosted Mini-Wheats Cinnamon Roll and Special K Blueberry have you covered with delicious flavor and whole grains,” said Cindy Huntington, brand director at Kellogg Company. Frosted Mini-Wheats Cinnamon Roll features 100% whole grain frosted biscuit with cinnamon baked inside the layers. Containing 47g of whole grains per serving, the cereal is a source of fibre, as well as vitamins and minerals. Featuring whole blueberries, Special K Blueberry is said to contain key vitamins and minerals, as well as 15g of whole grains per serving. Kellogg also recently added a new variant to its Raisin Bran cereal range made with whole grain toasted oats, honey, bran flakes and raisins. “We’re always looking to create fresh flavor combos at Kellogg’s, and Nutri-Grain never stops innovating to offer parents new ways to serve breakfast and snacks their kids will love and that they can feel good about,” said Sarah Reinecke, senior marketing director at Kellogg.

Whole grains add “healthy” to snacks

As social trends shift towards healthier lifestyles, there is a resounding desire for healthy snacks among consumers. According to Grand View Research, the global healthy snacks market size was valued at US$85.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% from 2022 to 2030. For those on the go, breakfast bars offer a portable yet nutritious breakfast alternative. Enjoy Life Foods debuted its Breakfast Ovals, which take the form of soft-baked morning snack bars, each featuring more than 20 grams of whole grains—providing 12% of the recommended daily value of fiber—and all-natural fruit. At the base of the new products, consumers will find four types of purity protocol gluten-free oats: steel cut oats, rolled oats, oat flakes and oat flour.

Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars are another easy, nourishing source of morning energy. These breakfast bars are packed with eight grams of whole grains and are made with real fruit and no artificial flavors or colors. Earlier this year, the company introduced three new flavor mashups within its Nutri-Grain brand, including two new fruit and vegetable breakfast bars and new “Bites.” There is also Akimaa Africa, a Kenya-based company that produces snack foods from millet. Akimaa’s flagship product is a gluten-free millet bar. “The company adds value to millet and comes up with highly nutritious, tasty and affordable millet snacks,” says founder, Irene Etyang.

We can’t talk about snacks without failing to mention Popcorn, beloved globally for being delicious yet light, filling, low in calories, fat and easy to make. What you might not have realized however, is that popcorn is a whole grain! The Safe + Fair Food Company, which specializes in clean, plant-based, allergy-friendly food, snack, and beverage innovations, recently launched its Everything Bagel Seasoned Popcorn. At just 44 calories per cup and 100% whole grain, it features kettle-popped popcorn, sunflower oil, pea protein, and traditional everything bagel spices like sea-salt and garlic. Traditional baked good snack favorites like cookies, crackers and brownies have also been reimagined with whole grain alternatives. Voortman Cookies Ltd., a subsidiary of Hostess Brands, Inc., is doubling down on innovation with two new cookie offerings: Super Grains and Mega Wafers.

A new entry into the better-for-you snack segment, Voortman Super Grains cookies are baked with 60% whole grains, including rolled oats, wheat, rye and buckwheat.  Other whole grain innovations include products like the Graze Wow Bakes chocolate and sea salt bites — a healthy, oat-based alternative to traditional brownies. The wholesome snacks let consumers indulge without guilt and contain just 100 calories per serving.

Other manufacturers who have been inspired by the nutrition forward consumer whole grain trend to expanded its product lines is Capwell Industries, of one of Kenya’s leading diversified food processing giants. The food manufacturer has recently launched Soko Nutrigo, 100% wholegrain maize flour, fortified with vitamins and minerals to deliver top notch taste and nutrient-density. Soko Nutrigo joins Capwell’s stable of maize flour comprising of Soko Maize meal and the premium sifted maize meal, Amaize.

Innovations with Whole Grains is not Easy

Despite their litany of benefits, whole grains present their fair share off usability challenges. For one, commercial bakers may be confounded by whole wheat flour as it is not optimal for high-rising breads and tender baked goods. Baking with whole grain flours can adversely impact dough tolerance and elasticity, resulting in products with less volume and a dense texture. The bran and germ are particularly difficult to work with. “The bran cuts the gluten strands as they form, rendering them useless, unable to trap the carbon dioxide being generated by the yeast,” state test kitchen directors at “This is one of the reasons 100 percent whole-grain breads tend to be dense rather than light.” Additionally, according to “USA Today” reporter Elizabeth Weise, “tannins and phenolic acid in the outer bran of the red wheat used to make whole-wheat flour can give it a bitter taste.” As a result, there are consumers who prefer their white fluffy counterparts due to their more appealing taste. In fact, the 2021 Whole Grain Consumer Insights Survey found taste as the biggest barriers to whole grain consumption at 33%.

As social trends shift towards healthier lifestyles, there is a resounding desire for healthy snacks among consumers.


Suppliers help overcome challenges

GoodMills Innovation, part of Europe’s leading milling corporation, the GoodMills Group, has come up with its own solution to the dark and rough texture of whole grain bread. Its Snow Wheat whole grain flours and granules for breads, rolls and pastry products are soft and light – but still full of whole grain goodness. The Snow Wheat range is made from white wheat – a special grain variety that’s particularly light in color and low in bitter notes. The result of which is smooth and light baked goods that neither look nor taste like whole grain, but do deliver its full nutritional value. In regard to the taste, GoodMills has successfully used fermentation technology to remove bitterness in a natural way, and nature-made aroma precursors to help create various aroma profiles.

Puratos, a global Bakery, Pastry & Chocolate solutions supplier, has also seen an increased interest in consumers looking for flavorful ways to incorporate more whole grain into their diet. To address this growing interest, the company recently launched Sapore Leo, a 100 percent liquid whole wheat, organic sourdough without the bitter taste of whole grains. “This latest innovation can be added to a wide range of breads, and its mild sour flavor helps bakers create amazing whole wheat breads without the bitter taste often associated with whole grain products. As a 100 percent whole wheat sourdough, Sapore Leo helps achieve whole wheat and fiber claims associated with a happy and healthy gut,” Michael Gleason, product manager, bakery, Puratos USA, Pennsauken, NJ.

Food companies are also seeking whole grain flour that resembles enriched flour in taste, texture and color and Ardent Mill’s Ultragrain family of flour delivers whole grain nutrition in mainstream foods tailored to these consumers preferences. Ultragrain comes from exclusive varieties of white wheat that are milder and sweeter than standard red whole wheat and offers whole grain nutrition and white flour appeal, according to the company.

Ancient grains make a comeback

To create more palatable products packed with nutrition, millers have taken to using ancient grains with distinct flavor profiles like quinoa, amaranth and teff to experiment with the taste, texture and color of whole grain products. American flour milling and ingredient company Ardent Mills, gives examples of how its ancient grains portfolio offers diverse flavors.  While amaranth has a peppery flavor, other flavors range from nutty, earthy like in quinoa to slightly sweet and molasses-like in teff. Millet has a mild flavor that allows it to be blended with the flour of other grains.

According to Zachery Sanders, director of marketing for Ardent Mills, Buckwheat can deliver a dark, roasted, chocolate-like note in desserts, and the dark brown color can also add a little difference to pie or tart crusts. Quinoa flour has a strong, nutty taste, but some people have found that toasting it helps mellow out the taste, according to Firebird Artisan Mills, Harvey, N.D. Sorghum’s mild, lightly sweet taste translates well into pastries and cookies, according to the company. Bakers are also getting creative with color. While grain-based foods are typically beige, interest in grains that bring some pigment to the formulation has baked foods getting more colorful. “The developer can mix and match the whole kernels or seeds or the milled flours to create interesting colors. Ivory teff or white quinoa would be creamy in color, while whole white wheat or millet could be described as a yellow-beige. Red quinoa, red rice or red corn would impart a red-pink color in the finished product,” said Susan Kay, manager, product applications for Bay State Milling.

Better for you trends catalyze innovation

Gluten-free is one of the strongest growth drivers in the food industry today. For the estimated 1% of the population diagnosed with celiac disease, consuming foods that contain gluten can cause significant intestinal damage as well as other health risks. Today, however, the gluten-free diet is being taken up voluntarily by a greater percentage of people who experience discomfort when they consume gluten-containing foods, or who perceive gluten-free diets to be healthier. While a majority of whole grains are naturally gluten free, some like wheat, barley, triticale and rye contain gluten.

However, several gluten-free whole grain options on the market are both tasty and nutritious and offer a great alternative to traditional breads for those who avoid gluten. Germany-based GoodMills Innovation has developed a new variety of wheat based on ancient grains called 2ab Wheat, that contains purely ancient gluten without the D genome making it suitable for those who are gluten sensitive.

In addition to gluten, Salt reduction remains high on the agenda for food manufacturers and brands tapping into increased demand for healthy products with a clean label. However, in baking, salt reduction impacts dough stability and reduces its tolerance during processing, which could create a less-than-ideal crumb structure, texture and overall cohesiveness. Global science-based company, DSM, has come up with its own solution to both the gluten and salt reduction conundrums, Enzymes.

According to the company, enzymes play a key role in food processing, improve dough machinability, process tolerance and loaf volume, and deliver important benefits in baked goods, such as delayed staling and increased softness. With over 150 years of experience in perfecting the use of enzymes for baking, the company found that the use of a glucose oxidase, such its BakeZyme Go Pure, with a hemicellulase can optimize a whole grain bread recipe with increased fibers for improved stability and tolerance. It also discovered that creating high-quality baked goods with reduced salt can be optimized using a lipase, such as its Panamore Golden enzyme, to improve dough tolerance as well as crumb structure and volume.  Although flours used for the production of bakery products contain endogenous enzymes, further enriching them with enzymes improves process performance. In addition, the synergistic effect of combinations of these enzymes on the dough improves the final product.

Whole grains here to stay

With a growing mound of research highlighting the health benefits of whole grains, their popularity is growing at a remarkable rate – proving in market after market that consumers worldwide are beginning to understand the importance of enjoying more whole grains. A 2022 IFIC Food and Health Survey found that of people who seek these particular health benefits, 53% report that they consume whole grains to improve cardiovascular health, 42% report that they consume whole grains to lose weight. Another 35% report that they consume whole grains to improve digestive/gut health, 34% report that they do so to improve immune function, and 33% to improve energy/reduce fatigue.

Whole grains have also been charted as the path to a healthier future for ourselves and our planet. With almost a third of greenhouse gas emissions coming from our food consumption, a number of leading Nordic researchers from, among others, the Danish Cancer Society have found that whole grains are an environmentally friendly alternative to animal protein. The growing popularity of plant-based diets and flexitarian eating styles also support the inclusion of whole grains and lend them long term viability, further bolstering the whole grains space. Market Data Forecast estimates the Whole Grains Foods Market will reach US$5 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 3.8 % over the analysis period 2022-2027. Bakery products are expected to grow at a CAGR of 3.5% to reach US$ 27 billion by the end of 2027.

Despite the increased interest, studies show consumers around the world are confused about how much whole grains they should be eating, and which foods contain them. A recent global study by General Mills and Nestlé found that of the more than 16,000 people surveyed, 83% said they weren’t sure how many grams they should be getting and 47% thought they get enough whole grains. This could be an opportunity for manufacturers to include more informative whole grain call-outs on their product packaging.

This feature appeared in the August 2022 issue of Milling Middle East & Africa. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE