- 30 years experience in grain-based food manufacturing.
- Has worked for Kellogg, Quaker Oats, Wenger Mfg. and consulted with food manufacturers worldwide.
- Offers broad spectrum of knowledge and experience in the production of grain-based foods as well as intricacies of the equipment involved in processing these foods.
- All 7 Best Practices
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- Meeting Summary Report
- Post-Meeting Engagement
Grain-Based Food Processing
- Growing demand for new grain-based products present formulation and processing challenges.
What’s old is new again in the grain foods industry. Consumer demand has resurrected grains that fell out of favor as more versatile and process-friendly wheat-, oat- and corn-based foods came to dominate in the 20th Century.
Though far from the mainstream, so-called “ancient grains” are attracting a bigger following. Consumers looking for new food experiences or grain-based foods with a healthier or different nutritional profile are flocking to foods formulated with grains with non-household names like quinoa, spelt, buckwheat, bulgur and amaranth.
While much of the demand is for minimally processed grains, growth is likely to come in the form of processed foods that incorporate them. That will present a host of sourcing, formulation and processing challenges for companies looking to bring products to market. While still largely the dominion of small, specialty processors, specialty grains foods are drawing the interest of the bigger players, who will bring their ample experience and skills to the task.
- Processing plants are becoming less manpower-intensive.
Modern processing plants are vastly different from those built 25 years ago. Then, you’d be constantly bumping into people. Get out in newly-built plants today and you hardly see a soul out there.
It’s the result of automation. Large and even small processors buying new systems or adding on to existing systems are turning to fully automated, full stainless steel operations with all the potential bells and whistles. The most advanced plants are taking automation to a new level: With Internet access, a remote control device and an access code, many can now be run and monitored remotely from halfway around the world.
- Grains-based food formulations are evolving.
Consumers in the industrialized world, Americans in particular, want foods that look appealing, taste good and are good for them. It’s hard to get all three in the same box.
But processors are increasingly challenged to formulate products that get as close to that ideal as possible. That’s hard when you’re lashed to commodities that deliver a lot of carbohydrates, which are coming under greater scrutiny, and often little else. A continuous trend is to lower the sodium, sugar and carbs in finished foods, and raise the fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s being done, but it could become a more formidable processing challenge as demand evolves.
- Proliferation of used processing line equipment presents options and challenges.
The used equipment pipeline is big and getting bigger. As more smaller, specialty processors enter the picture, the demand for less expensive processing solutions is growing. The supply of used equipment is expanding as processors in a growth mode look to shed older lines and replace them with higher capacity or more specialized equipment.
Processors in the market to upgrade, however, are more pressured to fully understand both their exact needs and what equipment options will offer the best package of value, capability and upgradability down the line. I’m constantly fielding questions from people who see a piece of equipment on the Internet and think it’ll turn dirt into gold, so to speak. That rarely happens.
- Efficiency pressures mount.
In a climate of growing competition and razor-thin margins, processors are being forced to scour their operations for ways to cut costs without affecting product quality. A lot of this is being driven by large grocery chain buyers. They’re looking to protect their margins, too, and so are more than willing to look to other suppliers or turn to private label brands.
With a lot of undercutting and corner cutting taking place, processors are looking for ways to save. That can be achieved through smarter raw materials sourcing, improved processing techniques and reducing energy costs. It can be as simple as packing at a little higher moisture content.