High technology in the English countryside

by Chrystal Shannon
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Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association in the U.K. serves all levels of the food industry, ‘from plough to plate.’

Thousands of tourists who visit Chipping Campden and the surrounding Cotswolds each year associate the region with ancient buildings, colorful gardens, country estates and friendly pubs, all set in unmistakably English countryside. To the directors of food companies and their staff, however, it is the Campden & Chorleywood Food Research Association, or CCFRA, that comes to mind when "Campden" is mentioned.

Each of the two names in the organization’s title are known internationally through their association with different food types, but readers of World Grain are likely to be most familiar with Chorleywood because of the breadmaking process bearing that name.

Since the two research associations combined their activities in 1995, demand for its services has increased, especially as government-sponsored research has been replaced largely by work funded directly by food producers and processors, either as collaborative projects or confidential company developments.

Research and technology are by no means the only activities at CCFRA, but the research base provides a foundation for many services provided.

The Chorleywood Bread Process (CBP) is a technique introduced in the 1960s, and it remains the principal means of producing bread and other yeasted dough products in the U.K. and other countries, such as New Zealand and South Africa.

The process has been continuously improved and modified, not least in response to changes in legislation. The withdrawal of potassium bromate as a permitted oxidizing improver probably presented the greatest challenge. However, the wealth of experience acquired by long-serving staff members such as Stan Cauvain, director of the Cereals Division, helped CCFRA adapt the process for use with improvers such as ascorbic acid.

The process has always required the use of specially constructed mixers. The CCFRA has continued to work closely with manufacturers in producing the latest equipment, which includes control of the gases and pressure in the headspace and increased throughput.

A key activity of the Cereals & Cereal Processing Division is its international consultancy, which builds on its fundamental research base to provide practical solutions to problems and provides the springboard for new product and process developments for companies around the world.

Other research activities in the Baking and Cereals Processing Department, headed by Terry Sharp, have included work on heat-treated flour as an alternative to chlorination; the role of enzymes in bread, cakes and pastries; and projects related to reduced-fat levels in cakes and biscuits. In addition to changes in dough mixing, continuing studies on dough bubble structures is now providing valuable information related to the design and requirements for dough moulding.

About half of the department’s research work supports business growth of industrial companies involved with cereals and bakery products. Activities include new product development, quality testing of ingredients and products, and problem solving.


In spite of automation, bread production still requires skill. Attempts in the U.K. to replace the CBP with a fully automated unskilled process proved unsuccessful and costly to its proponents.

Maintenance of the skill base in the industry through training is an important part of the Cereals Division’s work. A new building that opened last year houses a fully equipped, 300-square-meter bakery and cereals training facility.

Designed for maximum flexibility, the facility allows special equipment to be brought in whenever required. Although some "off the shelf" courses are provided, the new building — and the philosophy behind it — is a response to the demand for customized courses tailored to client requirements.

Through a formal link with South Bank University, undergraduate training requires CCFRA courses to earn a bach-elor’s degree in relevant disciplines.

Training for the entire food industry is a key part of service provided by CCFRA and its Hungarian subsidiary, Campden and Chorleywood Magyarorszg. Courses are held in dedicated lecture rooms and on-site teaching production facilities, as well as on clients’ premises. The CCFRA also collaborates with professional bodies such as the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) in staging specialized short courses.

Flavor and texture are important in all foods, and state-of-the-art organoleptic facilities also feature prominently in the new building. Clients make use of the skills of tasters for many purposes, including development of analytical tasting instruments, product comparisons and new product development.

Assuring the success of new products requires sophisticated market and product intelligence, and provision of such information is the special function of a small team within the Consumer and Sensory Science Department. Maintenance of a New Food and Beverage Data Base, listing appearance, description, price, weight, ingredients, nutritional information, packaging description and cooking instructions, enables survey information to be made available to subscribers through traditional and electronic media.


Members of the U.K. Federation of Bakers and the National Association of British and Irish Millers help structure CCFRA research, and strict confidentiality is maintained regarding any research work done by individual companies with the help of the CCFRA.

Relationships between millers, their suppliers and their customers are at their best when mutual trust exists, backed by consistent and uniform testing. The Cereals and Milling Department, led by Susan Salmon, provides testing services and coordinates wheat and flour testing methods. The department also develops new tests and evaluates these and other novel assays in comparison with established methods.

An ongoing evaluation program on "Quality Assessment and End-use Suitability of Wheat and Flour" is using a 10-gram Mixograph manufactured by Reologica to create a quality map for U.K. bread and biscuit wheat varieties. The goal is to reduce the U.K. miller’s dependence on variety identification as a means of controlling raw material quality.

Besides improving methods for selecting samples from existing varieties, the Cereals and Milling Department also provides breeders with better tools to produce new wheat varieties for specific end-uses. A project called "Prediction of Wheat and Flour Quality by NIR" builds upon knowledge of the relationship between molecular weight distributions in wheat proteins of varieties suitable for different purposes.

Image analysis also features prominently in the department’s research program. An algorithm was developed to measure bran specks in white flour and later became incorporated into the commercially produced Branscan range of instruments.

Grain shape and size have been the basis of tests that distinguish high-quality rice grains from cheaper varieties present as adulterants in some shipments. Specific grain features such as crease characteristics are also measured with the technique so that their importance may be ascertained in relation to performance criteria. Some of these criteria, such as bread texture, also may be evaluated by image analysis. A novel non-destructive approach to examining dough structure has successfully applied X-ray tomography, a technique that images a succession of optical slices.


Food legislation is continuously increasing in volume and importance, requiring greater expertise and specialization. At CCFRA, a small team under the direction of John Hammond provides an advisory service that increases awareness through publications and training courses and responds to questions that often require immediate answers.

A valuable part of this service is the interpretation of complex legal requirements into instructions that are easily understood by operatives. Exporters particularly value information on food legislation outside the U.K. and the E.U.

CCFRA has a comprehensive library and information retrieval system. In addition to research staff, member companies can access the service by all current methods of communication, including the Internet. The Campden & Chorleywood web site is www.campden.co.uk.

The web site also includes registration details for an important event in the food industry’s calendar: "Campden Day," when CCFRA opens its doors to members and guests to exchange ideas on the latest developments. The event this year is on June 12. Robert L. Thompson, chairman of the International Policy Council on Agriculture, Food and Trade and the director of rural development at the World Bank in Washington, D.C., will deliver the 24th annual Campden Lecture.

CCFRA also provides advice and service to all involved in the food chain, "from plough to plate." Training of personnel is high on the list, but research-based recommendations on methodology and machine design are also important. The association provides audits of production facilities against in-house, national and international hygiene and production standards and has developed the "Safefood" process design system that gives a structured approach to minimizing microbiological hazards through HACCP protocols.