What do millers want? It’s a question seed companies that develop and market wheat varieties are constantly asking.
How large end users such as Mondelez International, the makers of products like Ritz crackers and Oreo cookies, answer that question has huge implications for seed companies such as C&M Seeds and wheat growers across Ontario says C&M General Manger Ellen Sparry.
In this episode of Real Agriculture’s Wheat School, Sparry shares insights into millers’ need for consistency in everything from variety availability to deliveries to protein levels. About 80% of Ontario’s crop is soft red winter wheat destined for pastries, including cakes, cookies and crackers, explains Sparry. Understanding the gluten strength requirements for products like the bubbly air-filled Ritz cracker, compared to a Wheat Thin cracker, is critical in helping breeders identify and market the varieties these end users require. It’s also important for seed companies to ensure that the varieties their farmer customers are planting have strong end-use demand.
The ongoing conversation with millers and food processors also plays a critical role in helping recognize future demands and opportunities for seed companies and farmers, adds Sparry, noting that consumer food trends and changing nutritional needs greatly impacts the product pipeline at companies like C&M.
“The commodity market won’t change a lot. It takes certain things to make bread and it takes certain things to make crackers,” says Sparry. But niche markets could develop. “We could be getting into different colour wheats, such as purple, for different types of bread.”
A greater focus on nutrition by both consumers and regulators may have significant implications, adds Sparry. Pressure to reduce salt, for example, could have big implications for baking recipes and create demands for different dough strengths that reach all the way to variety development and farmers’ fields.