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Niche market wheats are coming soon

Reduced-gluten wheat just the first of several geared to consumer tastes

While your everyday, even high quality, hard red spring wheat isn’t doing so well in the marketplace right now, a biotech company in Davis, California, is launching a new reduced-gluten HRSW. Arcadia Biosciences also has other wheats with distinctive health-benefit traits in its pipeline. Arcadia is hopeful that introducing these non-GMO traits into wheat will increase the value of cereal grain products to consumers, and open premium niche markets to producers.

The reduced-gluten wheat is the first of several products coming to the market over the next couple years, says Raj Ketkar, president and CEO of Arcadia Biosciences. The reduced-gluten trait will be in HRSW varieties as well as durum wheat. Other varieties the company is developing include resistant starch lines. These will be of interest to diabetics looking to reduce or better manage sugar intake. Arcadia is also looking at wheat varieties with a high fibre trait and also a trait that helps extend the shelf life of finished bakery products.

“Public and private breeding programs are working to develop new wheat varieties,” says Ketkar. “But the conventional wheats haven’t been as profitable as they once were.”

Ketkar and Matthew Plavan, Arcadia Biosciences chief financial officer, say the market they are developing is very similar to the model familiar to many western Canadian farmers, developed by Warburton Bakeries in the U.K.

Warburton sources wheat to produce flour with specific quality characteristics, grown under specific production practices. The company works through specific grain buyers to contract production of that wheat in an identify preserved production system.

“And that’s what we see developing with our GoodWheat brand products,” says Ketkar. “We are working with millers, bakeries and food processors now to show them the value of the wheats with specific traits that will be of value to certain segments of consumers. As products are developed there will be a demand back through the production chain to producers. These will be higher-value bread and bakery products to consumers and that will translate into premium price paid to producers growing these wheats under contract.”

The late March announcement of their first reduce gluten wheat was just a “heads up” to wheat growers, says Plavan. “We want farmers to know these wheats are coming over the next 24 to 36 months,” he says. “We have started with the reduced-gluten trait in hard red spring wheat and durum, but will be introducing the other traits in other wheats over the coming months. The traits can actually be introduced into any type of wheat, whether it be hard red spring, durum, hard red winter and soft white wheats, for example. We’re hoping these new varieties with unique traits will make wheat cool again.”

The first reduced-gluten wheat has 65 to 70 per cent lower gluten than a conventional wheat variety. Products produced are not intended for people with true gluten allergies, such as those with Celiac disease.

“But for consumers who, for health or life style reasons, are looking to reduce gluten intake, these new lines will have about 70 per cent less gluten, yet pizza, pasta and bread products will have same taste and texture as products produced from conventional wheat flour,” says Ketkar.

“We’re taking a consumer-driven approach,” he says. “Products produced from wheat carrying these new traits will create value to the consumer. We are working with end-use product manufacturers and processors in U.S., Europe and Asia to introduce these new products.”

The company is hoping within two to three years millers and processors will have demand for 10 to 20 million bushels of these specialty wheats, all produced under contract.

All finished bread, bakery and pasta products produced with specialty wheats will carry the GoodWheat brand.

For more information visit the Arcadia Biosciences website.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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