There is an easily understood expression in English that “you cannot judge a book by its cover.” Applied to the new 2021/22 U.S. soft white wheat crop that is good advice for the world’s flour millers and wheat food producers.
The persistent Pacific Northwest (PNW) drought is expected to lower yields and push 2021/22 SW protein levels higher than average. As USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung says, however, protein level alone does not say everything about soft white end-quality performance.
Instead, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is helping flour millers learn that testing for Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) is the most effective and valuable method for predicting the true performance characteristics of flour for biscuits (cookies) and crackers.
The SRC method, approved by the American Association of Cereal Chemists (56-11.02), examines the characteristics of glutenin, gliadin and arabinoxylan and the level of starch damage in flour. These values describe the flour’s ability to absorb water during the mixing process and its ability to retain or release that water during and after the baking process, among several other performance characteristics.
The combined pattern of the four component SRC values establishes a practical flour quality profile useful for predicting functionality, giving the miller and baker a ‘fingerprint’ of U.S. soft white (SW) and soft red winter (SRW) wheat flour end-quality performance.
“While rheological analysis tools measure the combined effect of the components in flour, individual component functionality, measured by SRC, gives a better picture of whether you are going to get the desirable performance from the flour for the product you want to make,” Chung told a large audience of millers and bakers in a USW webinar on SRC in June 2021.
With a more complete understanding of the functional value of wheat proteins, carbohydrates and other properties, flour milling quality control managers will have additional information to evaluate the characteristics more accurately of U.S. soft white wheat and Western White (a blend of SW and a minimum 10% white club) this year compared to competing supplies.
Clean Label Input
“In addition, more wheat food manufacturers are looking for ways to ‘clean up’ their ingredient labels,” said USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd. “USW can show SRC results to millers and bakers that prove flours from U.S. soft white wheat and SRW wheat can make beautiful end products without adding any ‘magic powder’ like enzymes that have to be added to medium protein wheat flour to make weak gluten products.”
USW has helped flour mills understand the advantages of SW by introducing SRC analysis and training mills to use the tool to expand their business. Vietnam is one example, where several flour mills use SRC analysis of flour products milled from SW to demonstrate how end-product performance is improved compared to flour milled from alternative wheat supplies.
“Our baking experts have already had several sessions with flour millers across South and North Asia about the benefits of evaluating flour from SW with SRC over protein levels alone,” said USW Regional Vice President Matt Weimar. “We were also pleased with the number of millers who participated in the June webinar on SRC, in which Roy Chung and Tarik Gahi, our Milling and Baking Technologist, demonstrated the SRC method. We also had a well-attended second session in July featuring Peter Lloyd discussing how to use SRC data to blend flour streams for better performance and profit.”
Excellent SW Will Be Available
Buyers, millers and end-users can be reassured that excellent quality SW is available even with a short 2021/22 crop. Beginning stocks carry in 1.91 million metric tons of total U.S. white wheat following a 2020/21 PNW SW crop with excellent performance characteristics. Local USW offices and U.S. export grain companies are also prepared to help their customers develop tenders that will deliver the wheat qualities needed at the highest value possible.