EDME: Staying true to its philosophy

by Bryan McGee
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The EDME plant at Mistley on the banks of the River Stour in the East Anglia region of England is located in one of the most productive grain growing areas in Europe. It’s there that EDME can source most of the wheat, barley, rye and oats that are used in its processes for producing ingredients for the milling and baking industries.

Behind its historic façade, EDME Limited (www.edme.com) has recently installed modern facilities for intake, milling, blending and distribution of its wide range of cereal-based ingredients for the milling and baking industries. EDME and its sister company, Crisp Malting, form the Anglia Maltings Group, which is owned by Ragleth, a group of private investors.

The company has an annual turnover of about £16 million (approximately $24 million) and has 85 employees on a 3.5-acre site located across the railway tracks from one of the grain malting facilities of Crisp Maltings, which supplies the malted raw materials to EDME for further processing.

EDME’s core products fall into three categories — flaked and kibbled malted cereals, bakery concentrated mixes and malt flours diastatic and non-diastatic, roasted and crystal — to provide flavors and natural color modification to baked goods.

Throughout its long history, all EDME products have originated from cereal grains and are converted by natural or physical processes without any synthetic or chemical means. Several of them are made in accordance with the Soil Association organic standards. The ingredients can be used to enhance the taste and appearance of baked goods without the negative perceptions of some other health grain components which children, in particular, are reluctant to consume. Recent research by the company has highlighted the additional health benefits of the beta glucan in the oat and barley products.

David Amos, managing director and current president of The Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers (ABIM), said: “The current international emphasis on whole grain and health grain products has created a renewed recognition of the benefits of such long established products, and it was fortuitous that a willing investor has enabled EDME to respond to this challenging, growing market. I have had the interesting task of transforming a formerly family business in a recessionary period into a modern organization without losing the small company ethos of personal customer contact. We are members of not only our trade associations, but also the relevant scientific bodies who can advise our technologists.”

EDME said it is striving to raise all of its standards by not only investment in equipment and systems, but by education and training of its workforce to optimize the use of these investments.

The malt flakes and kibbles from wheat, rye, oats and barley are manufactured to maximize flavor, both sweet and acidic, and to reduce enzyme activity. They are sold primarily to bakers for enhancing their baked goods. The mixes are designed as concentrates to be added to flour in the bakery. These mixes are constantly being developed, and some include a range of seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower as well as chopped sun dried tomatoes and herbs. Alternatively, an interesting aspect of the business is the option of adding ingredient blends to a customer’s flour in controlled conditions in EDME’s facilities. In this activity, the customer delivers his consignment of flour in bulk for loading into a storage silo bin on the EDME site. The flour then enters a system where the selected ingredients are introduced in precise amounts and blended prior to packaging. The bags are palletized and prioritized in the new warehouse system prior to dispatch.

This operation ensures that the ingredients are added in optimum condition and eliminates the need for the customer to handle and store these high-value components in their own facilities. EDME said this provides a very effective means to work in close partnership with customers and to develop bespoke blends for them.

The malt flour range has expanded from the basic historic types widely used by the milling industry to include those made from a variety of cereals which, by differing techniques, can give varying intensities of color, flavor and enzyme activity to a finished baked product. The flavors of malt products can be modified to cover a wide range with a profile described as sharp roasted, roasted caramel, burnt toffee, baked toffee, sweet caramel and sweet biscuit.

Although Britain and Ireland remain the principal market for EDME, for over 20 years the company has had customers abroad in territories as diverse as Australia, Germany, other parts of Europe, and more recently the Middle East and Asia. For the export markets, the plant site is close to the port of Harwich, which is particularly well placed due to its frequent shipping facilities across the North Sea to the Europeon Continent.

James Smith, the recently appointed sales director, stressed: “With the inherent flexibility and strong supplier/customer relationships which EDME has, I am confident that we will open up new markets both geographically and with new innovative products in the coming years. One of my initial targets is to reinvigorate the EDME brand to our existing customer base and to new partners across the world; the main targets being Eastern Europe and Asia. As these regions become more westernized in their diet and look for ‘healthy,’ ‘natural’ and ‘functional’ ingredients in their foods, we will be able to offer our current range of ingredients and develop bespoke solutions to meet this developing market need. There are exciting times ahead.”

The quality and characteristics of the cereals used as raw materials are of great importance. In most harvest years, the wheat and barley requirements can be sourced from traders in the surrounding area to meet the specifications.

Rye and oats are more difficult to source, and most of these are now of specific varieties which are contractgrown by farmers to EDME’s requirements. The company, with its expertise in cereal science, keeps a close watch on plant breeding to identify the best varieties for its purposes.

Those cereals destined for malted products are first processed by Crisp Maltings, which has a dedicated plant for the EDME raw materials to meet the complex requirements for the food industry. The raw malted grains are then transferred in bulk to EDME for further intensive cleaning prior to flaking or milling.

The plant features a lot of new equipment in the production lines and laboratories. The test kitchen facility was recently established to improve new product development for bakery and non-bakery applications, fault diagnosis and joint workshop projects with customers.

Cleaning and grading of incoming grain is of enormous importance, especially for the flaked and whole grain products. There is, therefore, a near “zero tolerance” of foreign or discolored material before onward processing. Much of the new intensive seed cleaning equipment is supplied by Westrup and is supplemented by existing destoners. The latest AlphaScan color sorting machine from Satake performs a final check for any discolored contaminants. The plant includes four flaking and three kibbling lines as well as the milling and blending facilities.

Two of the most interesting production lines are those which pass the cleaned cereals through vertical cookers where live steam is used both to soften the kernels for flaking and to also adjust their alpha amylase activity before entering the heavy duty Turner flaking rolls. The flaked grains then pass into horizontal micronizers, where gas-fired infrared radiators dry them further, adjust the amylase activity and develop the product color and flavor characteristics.

A dedicated blending area is earmarked for production of special powder blends which are potentially allergen sensitive. A growth in this product range has seen products such as glutenfree blends being developed which seem to be destined to increase in importance in the coming years.

There are various means of particle size reduction, but the fine micron products are mostly reduced to the required particle size on impact mills manufactured by Baumeister GmbH.

Simon Wooster, technical director, commented: “We are continuously challenging our processes with new innovations and further developing the technological focus of the business. A number of collaborative projects with industry research associations have allowed us to explore the nutritional and functional aspects of malt and grain ingredients, providing commercially valuable insights. From a quality perspective, investment in our grain-cleaning processes and quality systems has provided a further level of product security to our customers and ensures that we maintain the highest level of food manufacturing quality accreditation.”

EDME said it has evolved and prospered for 126 years since its founding in 1884 by always being true to its roots. It has continued to develop and produce ingredients for the milling, baking and food sectors derived from cereal grains which are modified or processed by entirely natural means. The company sees little reason to doubt that its continuing success in the future lies in maintaining this business philosophy.