BakeryandSnacks met up with the company’s vice president Herb Schneider, along with Stan Tinsley and Peeyush Maheshwari, both business development directors, at the International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) held in Las Vegas last month to chat to them about the usefulness of malt and other extracts over nutrient-lacking syrups.
“Taste is always going to be the king,” said Maheshwari, but “as the sugar reduction craze is coming, people are worried about non-pantry-friendly ingredients. They want clean label; they want to have something they can relate to. Oat and malt and barley – they are the ancient grains.”
MPC has received an influx of business from beverage producers and the pet food industry, but its extracts have long played an important role in the snack and granola bar market. They have also proved useful for an array of baked goods (bagels, cookies, cakes, crackers, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and even frozen dough), as well as cereals and crisps.
At IBIE – and throughout its interactions with existing and potential clients, MPC strived to educate manufacturers on the value of using malt extract over a simpler sugar syrup.
“In the US, traditionally people have really thought about barley malt extract as a supplement for baking – without understanding the nutritional benefits,” added Maheshwari. “Historically, [in] most of the baking industry, it was all about flavor and all about taste – [and] malt extract and oat extract have wonderful taste – but what people are discovering… in North America, is the nutritional benefits.”
Europe has already embraced the nutritional benefits of a product like malt extract, he said, which offer dietary silicon (for bone health), vitamin B and minerals including magnesium, manganese and selenium.
Most of MPC’s products – barley, oat, rice – are also certified by Non-GMO Project Verified and, in some cases, certified organic. They are also not refined, so ingredient decks can list them as extracts rather than syrups. And, of course, they are plant-based.
Being able to check those boxes has boosted the image of grain extracts as useful ingredients for everything from fruit and nut bars to artisan bread loaves. Plant-based meat makers have also found a use for malt extract as an alternative to maltodextrin and other emulsifiers; plus, MPC says malt adds a browning element and meaty flavor when cooked.
“We want people to think intuitively of the benefits,” said Maheshwari. Previously, manufacturers perceived of extracts as just another sweetener, but “they can be a very valuable product ingredient, functionally.”
Oat extract gaining steam
MPC started as a malt extract company in 1957, when Ron Targen and a few partners bought an existing processor.
“To their credit and vision, they’ve stayed with it,” said Schneider, who added that today MPC is led by Targen’s daughter Amy. Today the company produces a range of extracts – from malt to oat to rice – as well as tapioca syrup, invert syrup and molasses.
Recently, though, the star has been oat.
“From an innovation point of view, customers are asking for more oat-based solutions,” Maheshwari told us. “Oat is gaining popularity from a health-halo [sense], as one of the few grains where there’s not much negative publicity.”
Schneider agreed, noting the rise of oat milk (“a dominant balloon out of nowhere”) and non-dairy yogurts. MPC does work with some oat milk producers, he added.
Though oat is more expensive than something like malt extract, manufacturers are looking for alternative plant-based solutions that solve their specific needs.
“Because you can make a very refined syrup, but we believe in extract. You can make oat syrup by starch, but you’re not getting the whole grains benefits. [It’s] a different way of processing.”
Watch our video interview with Schneider and Tinsley to find out more.
Investing for the next generation of sweeteners
Earlier this year, MPC completed a $50m renovation of its Dayton, Ohio facility, which doubled its footprint to 114,000 square feet. The result is a grain extract processing site built in the modern era – a rarity for this particular industry, according to Schneider.
In 2019, the site also gained a new 58-foot Bucher Dryband vacuum belt dryer to process malted barley extracts more efficiently. The vacuum spins the liquid extract through heating and cooling plates to remove evaporated moisture, creating a dried ‘cake’ that is then milled for use in food and beverage production.
Previously, MPC outsourced this part of the extract-making process to a toll spray drying service, which added three months to production time. The vacuum also creates a higher quality extract that retains more of the original grain’s antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins and minerals, according to Jim Hochberg, another VP.
MPC has also invested in its staff, adding a longtime veteran of the brewing industry, Jim Hettinger, as plant manager about four years ago. As a MillerCoors brewmaster for more than 20 years, Hettinger is adeptly trained in optimization and understanding barley ‘at a deep level,’ said Schneider.
He added that recent consolidation – the New Jersey-based MPC closed plants in Canada and elsewhere on the US east coast – has “revolutionized how we make and process [our extracts].”