By Julie Fitz-Gerald
Health and wellness driving niche flour sales in Canada
By Julie Fitz-Gerald
Flour trends in Canada continue to be heavily influenced by consumer interest in health and wellness, which has been driving up demand in spelt, organic, coconut and non-genetically modified (non-GM) flour categories. Growing sales of products using these flours show that opportunity is knocking in the baking industry.
Karen Reissmann, national sales manager with IREKS North America, says food that caters to one’s well-being is without a doubt a growing category. “The wellness trend has reached the baking industry. In the baked goods sector, these products are mainly a) functional, enriched products like prebiotics, or b) low-sugar or low-fat products, or c) whole grain products. The desire for complete well-being does not only trend within the wellness market, but also within the food market. This provides new opportunities for bakery products worldwide.”
Reissmann notes that increased consumer knowledge is allowing consumers to make healthier choices, which is paving the way for products like spelt flour. “A strong trend, which started in Europe, is moving towards spelt as it is one of the most popular whole grain, non-wheat grains available. Spelt flour has a mild and sweet flavour with none of the earthy bitterness associated with whole wheat flour.”
“Due to spelt’s high water solubility, the grain’s vital substances can be absorbed quickly into the body. The nutrients are made available to the entire organism with a minimum of digestive work. Spelt contains more protein, fats and crude fibre than wheat and also has large amounts of Vitamin B17 (anti-carcinoma). It’s certainly a trend that might be here to stay.”
As Canadians continue their love affair with healthier food choices, the organic sector has been ever-growing. Ardent Mills has seen its organic category expand dramatically in the last two years. “Ardent Mills currently has organic wheat farmer programs in eight states and provinces, up from just one state two years ago,” says Shrene White, the Denver, Colo.-based company’s director of specialty grains. “These farmers are supporting our ever-growing number of certified organic flour mills, now totalling eight across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. This network gives us the ability to be our own backup, adding to the organic wheat supply assurance Ardent Mills provides. We are also adding organic producers for spelt and triticale as we see growing demand for these heirloom wheats.”
With the kinks worked out of the organic certification process, flour producers are finding it easier to navigate the system and receive certification for their products. “There are clear federal guidelines for organic that have given great clarity to the process of certifying new products. It has gotten simpler for us over the years because of the reality that we are getting more products certified, so we really understand the process,” White says.
“In addition to obtaining certification for Ardent Mills’ new flour products, we produce store-brand organic flours and mixes out of our mills along with custom organic bread products out of our IBR bakery. So we have lots of interactions with organic certification bodies.”
Ardent Mills marketing director Zachery Sanders says the company’s organic all-purpose and bread flours are the most popular in the organic category. “They allow bakers to easily incorporate organic grains into their recipes and take advantage of increasing consumers demand for organic foods. In addition to all purpose and bread flours, we also offer organic pastry, whole wheat durum and triticale flours, as well as bakery blends and mixes, and artisan breads to give bakers and food manufacturers a complete range of offerings.”
Sanders also notes that Ardent Mills has seen a strong interest from the industry in organic ultragrain and expects this to be another area of growth in the future.
Coconut flour is another product that’s been gaining ground in Canada. Whole Foods Markets released its top 10 trends for 2017 in December and “Coconut Everything” featured prominently on the list. The report notes that “coconut flour tortillas, coconut sugar aminos and more unexpected coconut-based products are on the rise. Virtually every component of this versatile fruit-nut-seed (coconuts qualify for all three!) is being used in new applications.”
Rising demand for coconut products is no surprise to Klassic Coconut, a company based in Simcoe, Ont., that began selling sweetened coconut in 1986. Since opening its doors, the company has moved locations three times to keep up with its burgeoning business. Its current 52,000 square-foot location opened in 2014 and is a state-of-the-art production facility that has allowed the company to triple its production capacity. Klassic Coconut offers myriad coconut products, including desiccated, toasted and sweetened coconut, and now coconut flour, milk, water, cream and virgin coconut oil.
The company has seen an incredible increase in sales of coconut flour to its industrial-sized bakery clients. “2016 and 2017 have seen significant growth in the number of products being made with coconut flour,” explains Pete Dewaard, account manager at Klassic Coconut. “We’ve seen sales move up 60 per cent from 2015 to 2017.”
With more and more consumers identifying as gluten-intolerant, the gluten-free nature of coconut flour makes it an attractive alternative to regular flour. “Coconut flour is gluten-free, which works as a great replacement flour for those suffering from gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. It’s also high in fibre and is a good source of protein,” Dewaard notes.
However, coconut flour cannot be used as a direct substitute for wheat flour in recipes. It usually takes a mixture of gluten-free flours to achieve desired consistency and taste. Recipes that do contain only coconut flour usually require more egg.
Dewaard expects to see the demand for coconut flour continue to rise, especially in the organic category. The challenge now is to meet that demand. “We continually get new customers requesting organic coconut flour. Continued growth is expected as many manufacturers are creating new products using coconut flour as an ingredient. The demand has become so great that we are struggling to keep product in stock.”
Where corn flour is concerned, it appears that interest in non-GM cornmeal is on the rise. According to the “Global Cornmeal Market 2017-2021” report issued by Research and Markets in March, “clean labeling on packaging helps in awareness of types of corn. Labels help the consumers to identify the non-GM and organic corn products. With the growing penetration of organic products, manufacturers in the cornmeal market are optimistic about the growth of the organic corn-based foods in the US.”
With the global cornmeal market expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 1.95 per cent from 2017 to 2021, many key companies are jumping on board with organic and non-GM corn flour products, including Bob’s Red Mill, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and General Mills.
The increasing demand for spelt, organic, coconut and non-GM flours are prime examples of how health and wellness are influencing the Canadian baking industry, providing exciting new areas of growth for millers and bakers across the country.
Julie Fitz-Gerald is a freelance writer based in Uxbridge, Ont., and a regular contributor to Bakers Journal.