Cereal and snack focus

Limagrain invests in high-tech cereal breeding

By Anthony Fletcher in Clermont-Ferrand

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Limagrain, which has invested heavily in research designed to breed
healthier crops, believes that the future is bright for the cereals
sector.

"We are encouraged by campaigns in countries such Sweden, the US and France, which are increasing public awareness of cereals,"​ said Elisabeth Chanliaud, head of food R&D at Limagrain.

"And in labs, we now have powerful tools to follow molecules, which make it easier to identify the desirable genes."

The French co-operative group, which has an annual R&D budget of some 102m out of a turnover of over 1 bn, therefore believes that with the current emphasis on healthy dietary practices, this is an area of research that deserves further attention.

"The potential of cereals has not been realised,"​said Chanliaud. "Each cereal has its own specificity maize for example is a source of antioxidants, while other cereals are sources of carotenoids and vitamin E."

In order to improve the nutritional profile of crops, Limagrain is naturally breeding plants of the same variety that have specific characteristics. More recently these characteristics have focused on issues such as flavour, taste, and of course, nutrition.

"It usually takes ten generations to develop a new variety, but we can speed this process up through initiating two harvests and accelerating generation in glass houses. With starch for example, you can play around with the amylose content, which affects the glycaemic index of a product."

The possibilities are huge. Chanliaud says that a company just needs to identify the characteristic they wish to emphasise.

There are difficulties of course.

"There are a number of difficulties involved in plant breeding. One problem is that the micronutrients might not be evenly distributed in the grain, and the process can be very complex.

"By my conclusion is that there are strong opportunities in traditional breeding. You just need to ensure that these benefits get to the consumer."

Related topics: Ingredients

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