Sourced from a rare non-GMO variety of wheat that is packed with more prebiotic fiber than traditional wheat, HealthSense High Fiber Wheat Flour tastes and behaves like refined white flour in recipes but delivers the better-for-you attributes that consumers want and the fiber they need, Ed Fish, VP and general manager for the company’s varietal solutions business unit, told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Ninety-five percent of Americans don’t eat nearly enough fiber,” but since the COVID pandemic, consumer interest in fiber has increased along side their awareness of its health benefits, including the potential to help improve their gut health and by extension their immunity and overall wellness, Fish said.
Likewise, more Americans are trying to increase their fiber to help curb their hunger and reduce their exposure to health risks associated with over-eating, including obesity, heart health issues, type I and II diabetes and more, he added.
But while consumers may be interested in consuming more fiber, many are not sure how to do so effectively through their diet and rely on health claims and third-party certifications, like AHA’s Heart-Check.
“The Heart-Check is pretty well understood and … having that accreditation is huge in terms of the equity [AHA] has built with consumers and their trust and understanding of how it benefits them,” Fish said.
As such, “that Heart-Check can also help us help our customers market to their consumers” when they use enough HealthSense High-Fiber Wheat Flour to also qualify for the certification, he said.
HealthSense offers the health benefits of whole wheat with the taste of refined flour
HealthSense also stands out as a refined product among those with a Heart-Check certification because most products that earn the mark are whole grain, which Fish notes offer “a great way to help consumers improve their health, but the statistics suggest that consumers like refined flour.”
He explained that while consumers want to improve their health, they also don’t want to sacrifice taste or texture – and with HealthSense they don’ have to compromise.
“Most people understand that whole wheat in many respects is better for you than refined wheat flour and has more fiber, but it hasn’t been particularly successful … because the taste isn’t as desirable. It is typically associated with bitter notes … and it can be more difficult to work with,” he said.
He explained, HealthSense High-Fiber Wheat Flour doesn’t have those same sensory challenges even though it packs 10 times the prebiotic fiber of conventional refined flour because it is milled like regular refined all-purpose flour and made from the endosperm and removes the bran – which is included in whole wheat and gives it a courser texture and nuttier taste.
A breakthrough innovation in wheat that boosts nutrient density
HealthSense High-Fiber Wheat Flour is able to retain the benefits of the fiber that is often sifted out during the refining process because it uses a non-GMO high-amylose wheat in which the endosperm is very high in resistant starch, or a dietary fiber that resists digestion in the small intestine and is instead fermented in the large intestine.
Fish describes the cultivation of wheat as a breakthrough innovation that was decades in the making, but which has yet to receive the credit and attention it deserves.
“There has not been a lot of innovation in wheat since it was domesticated. … We’ve made some progress in the industry, but most of the innovation in wheat has been either what we call agronomic – so more efficient for farmers, either drought or heat resistant or things of that sort – or around how we mill it,” he explained.
“It has not had a focus on nutritional density,” until now, he added.
Development of the wheat was led by CSIRO, the public research arm of the Australian government, which faces many of the same public health issues as the US – including high rates obesity and Type II diabetes – that research shows fiber can help address. Also similar to the US, a cornerstone of the Australian diet is wheat – and so, Fish explains, the government wanted a way to increase the amount of fiber in the diet through a food or ingredient that was already popular.
“This is not gene-edited or a science experiment, for lack of better words, but rather was about selection and finding a naturally occurring kernel of wheat” that could deliver more fiber when refined or milled, he added.
HealthSense offers cleaner labels and potentially lower costs
The flour also offers manufacturers an opportunity to reduce and replace less desirable ingredients in their formulations – allowing for cleaner labels and sometimes lower overall costs.
“Often if you pick up a loaf of bread or a tortilla you, unfortunately, will be shocked at the number of ingredients. And so it is important for our customers to understand that what we are selling them is something that is simply labeled as wheat flour, but the value they are getting is wheat flour that is highly functional and tastes good,” Fish said.
He added that because the flour is so high in fiber, brands can often replace in their formuals fiber additives, which can be expensive and have significant sensory and performance trade-offs.
A US-based supply chain offers security
Bay State Milling is one of a handful of companies worldwide growing and milling the high-amylose wheat, according to Fish.
He explained that the company grows the wheat in six states across the US to protect against natural disaster and ensure sufficient supply for manufacturers that want to use it in their better-for-you products, which to date includes pastas, low-carb breads, flour blends and more.
Bay State Milling further ensures the integrity of its supply chain by providing farmers with the seeds and guarantees that it will buy the wheat back from them.
“We provide our growers with incentives to participate in this program, which they like because it is an opportunity to lock in a premium,” Fish said, adding this “closed loop IP system” allows Bay State Milling to track the grain all the way back to the seed.