Increasing Ontario wheat use

A PROFILE OF GRIFFITH LABORATORIES

the next time you eat a breaded chicken nugget, onion ring or fish stick from a leading brand, know that it was likely coated with multiple layers of flour made from Ontario wheat.

Toronto-based Griffith Laboratories, a dominant player in the Canadian food ingredient market, and a significant user of wheat flour in Ontario, has been making a focused effort to include more wheat flour sourced from Ontario wheat in their processes.

Nilesh Patel, Technical Director at Griffith Laboratories, has been overseeing the shift in wheat sourcing. He says the decision to use more Ontario wheat was driven mainly by environmental as well as economic considerations.

“By sourcing our wheat flour from local grains, we can greatly reduce the transportation impacts of moving such large volumes and support local farmers,” says Patel, noting how previously much of the flour was being sourced from grains from Western Canada and beyond.

Patel says today they’ve increased use to the point that a majority of the wheat flour used at Griffith Laboratories in Canada is sourced from Ontario grain. Considering the company is among the largest purchasers of the flour in Ontario, this is great news for Ontario  crop growers.

The journey to this point has been long, Patel says. The company has already dedicated more than two years’ worth of time and financial investment to planning, testing, equipment procurement and modifications to incorporate more Ontario wheat.

quality control
Incorporating more Ontario wheat flour isn’t as simple as just adding it to a formulation, says Patel. The properties of Ontario wheat flour are different from that of Western wheat and others. He says the wheat flour characteristics of the Ontario supply require adjustments in formulation and process to maximize its functional properties and achieve the desired final product characteristics.

The most important goal Patel says is to ensure that the finished product
remains consistent.

“Consumer tastes are very discriminating,” he says. “Quality is important and we strive to deliver to our customer’s expectations.”

Patel says a great deal of time is spent studying the properties of Ontario wheat flour and how it works under different processing conditions. Temperature, absorption, energy input, gas cell development, baking parameters and the interaction of formula ingredients are just a few examples of factors that are all carefully tested and considered.

“It’s a balance of science and art,” he says, noting that their team of “flour experts” has more than 100 years of combined experience fine-tuning the balance in food recipes and working with in-house patented technology. In today’s environment, combining their knowledge with the latest technology and equipment means many processing factors can be tweaked and controlled more precisely.

In the end, the team at Griffith Laboratories was successful in increasing Ontario wheat flour usage by 50 percent in their various formulations. Patel says that this was possible through partnering with Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Market Development Investment program and a local flour mill. Together, they’ve been able to test run small batches in recipes, perfecting techniques and working toward handling truckloads of Ontario wheat flour. Patel says the goal is to obtain the majority of their wheat flour needs from the Ontario supply.

future plans
So what comes next after reaching the targets set for current formulations? In the future, Griffith Laboratories wants to expand its exploration of specific grain varieties to capitalize on unique characteristics in the flour, which could carry through to the final food product.

Griffith Laboratories manufactures seasonings, coatings, sauces, dough blends and other related food systems for use by food service companies, processors, retailers and distributors.

The Toronto-based division of Griffith Laboratories is one of 26 global sites for the company. The Canadian Griffith Laboratories facility specializes in dry blending, liquids manufacturing and bakery operations. The vision of Griffith Laboratories is “to make the world’s food better,” says Patel. •