Jeff Sutton, the company’s CEO, told BakeryandSnacks the decision was made after a series of recent product recalls by Kellogg and Flowers Foods. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal, in particular, caused at least 100 people in 33 US states to fall ill since March.
He noted To Your Health is a supplier to Kellogg’s Kashi brand and Dave’s Killer Bread (owned by Flowers Foods since 2015). He said it is important to make sure its grains are pasteurized.
“[Salmonella disease] is a problem that has to be addressed,” said Sutton. “That is why raw material suppliers started sanitizing their ingredients before they go into manufacturing, which has never happened before.”
He added his company currently buys grains through US brokers who provide paperwork that can help trace back to exactly where the grains are grown.
Advantages of new kill step
Sutton said: “Traditionally, the food industry uses a five-log lethality step that is standardized by the FDA to kill pathogens. However, the process usually involves ultra-high heat that could eliminate heathy nutrients at the same time.”
Additionally, even with the standardized pasteurization process, there are still pathogens that could “slip in through cracks” during the food production process, he said. “Then nothing really changes.”
The new kill step is not only expected to retain the grain’s health benefits, but to save time for the company as well, according to Sutton.
“We usually take the grains out of a bag, mill them and pasteurize them, and put them right back on a truck – that takes multiple days. But I will also implement new automation to move a larger volume of products in a shorter amount of time,” he said.
However, the kill step is still in the process of being approved by accredited third-party labs including Ecolab.
“It is a six-month process and it should be completed by the end of this year,” said Sutton.
Growing sprouted grains market
The future looks bright for To Your Health as the sprouted grains category is expected to reach a value of $250m this year, up from $30m in 2015.
The company currently offers a line of organic and gluten-free flours and grains, including lentils, millet, green peas, brown rice and quinoa. Around 80% of the products are used in bakery applications like bread.
According to Sutton, people are interested in the health and digestive benefits of sprouted grains and are incorporating more of them into their diets.
He also believes his business can grow even bigger after it starts utilizing the new technology.
“We started picking up some leaders in the food industry and also export to 14 countries,” he said.
Sutton added To Your Health is expected to reach a $6m sales target in 2018 with an average of 20% to 30% annual increase.