MC Mühlenchemie has announced the winners of the 2023 Flour Innovation Award at a digital award ceremony. The prize, which recognises solutions for the sustainable use of wheat and local agricultural commodities, was offered for the first time on the occasion of the 100-year anniversary of MC Mühlenchemie. Composite flour innovations were the objective, and the winners came from South Africa, Ethiopia and Pakistan.
The award honours scientific work around the production and processing of non-wheat flours and their blends with wheat flour, especially those that use local commodities. The objective is to encourage research into alternatives to wheat flour, in order to achieve greater independence from wheat and global markets.
Global relevance and variety
Twenty-three research projects from nine countries on four continents were submitted for the 2023 Composite Flour Innovation Award. A jury of international experts evaluated the studies and practical projects completed from 2019 to 2022, and selected three awardees.
“The impressive diversity of the submissions shows the worldwide importance and relevance of composite flour. The work reflects developments and innovations in the field, and helps us gain a deeper understanding of the use and processing of composite flours,” said Dr Lutz Popper, originator of the Flour Innovation Award.
The prize money, totalling €10,000, was divided among the three winners. The first prize, at €5,000, went to Yusuf Kewuyemi, a doctoral student at the University of Johannesburg, for his development of 3D-printed crackers from processed whole-grain flour made of African-grown peas and quinoa. These plants are highly nutritious and can help reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. In order to raise the flour’s nutritional content and improve its bioavailability, Kewuyemi implemented techniques such as fermentation and germination. The final product is a functional, nutritious snack in the form of a 3D-printed cracker. This research shows that traditional crops can be transformed into health-promoting foods using innovative processing techniques.
The second prize, at €3,000, went to Abdulhakim Idris of Jimma University in Jimma, Oromia Region, Ethiopia. In his study “Optimising the process variables for the production of oat compound biscuits”, he looked into the optimum mix of wheat and oat flour for making biscuits. Different parameters were analysed, including mixing ratio, baking time and baking temperature, along with their influence on properties like the weight, thickness, spread ratio and texture of the biscuits.
Insight into the awarded research projects
The results showed that a mix ratio of 15% oats to 85% wheat, a temperature of 300°C and baking time of 3:30 minutes provided the ideal conditions for making oat/wheat biscuits that do not differ from pure wheat biscuits in their sensory qualities. This creates the basis for the further commercialisation of mixed oat biscuits, the development of applications for other oat products, and the promotion of oats as a little-used grain to fill out the annual grain deficit.
Third place and its €2,000 purse went to Saqib Arif of the University of Karachi in Pakistan. His study looked at the potential of composite flour from mixes of underused grains in response to the worldwide rise in wheat prices and increasing sustainability concerns. The results show that mixed flours have a better nutrition profile, are rich in fibre and bioactive compounds, and thus represent a promising possibility for reducing dependence on wheat, although challenges remain with regard to processability and sensory characteristics.
“The research projects submitted demonstrate that composite flour has enormous potential to make the future of our food production sustainable. They show that with intelligent and innovative methods, we can reduce our dependence on wheat without having to give up taste and quality. This look into the future promises many exciting developments, and we’re looking forward to continuing to promote and support progress,” said Dr Popper in presenting the winning projects.
Dr Popper was assisted by professionals in food technology and processing, who contributed their scientific and practical experience to the jury’s deliberations. These were: Jeffrey A. Gwirtz, a mill engineer and CEO of JAG Services; Michael Gusko, global director innovation at the GoodMills Group; Rosana Sica, technical director of Atime in Argentinia; Sridhar Bhavani of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT); Prof Olugbenga Ben Ogunmoyela, president of the NGO Consumer Advocacy for Food Safety and Nutrition Initiative (CAFSANI) and CEO of Glytabs Consulting.