Atta flour innovation

by Nicholas Trounce
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Atta flour, made from various wheat blends, is the most important basic food in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh besides rice. Atta flour is the basic product for making well-known flat breads such as chapati, roti and puri. Every year, about 100 million tonnes of wheat are processed into Atta flour throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. And the demand for industrially ground, high-quality Atta flour is growing, especially in India.

One of the reasons behind this is progressing urbanization, and another is increased consumer demand for quality and sanitation. City inhabitants no longer bring their grain to the local Atta mill for grinding, as it is common in the countryside. Consumers want to buy their Atta flour at supermarkets and to be able to select from various types and brands of Atta flour.

Traditional production

Processing wheat into Atta flour in India has almost exclusively taken place in commercial operations using traditional mill stones, so called Chakki mills, up until now. A Chakki mill can only handle 300 kilos of wheat per hour and is usually exclusively geared to producing one kind of Atta flour. In addition, the core of the Chakki mill is its grinding stone, which no longer meets today’s requirements for food safety and production consistency.

Fulfilling the growing demand for first-class quality and a larger assortment is a big challenge for Indian mill operators with their conventional production plants. So far, they have been lacking the appropriate process as well as the necessary machinery for industrially producing Atta flour.

Innovative process technology

A new type of industrial process for producing high-quality and sanitary Atta flour has been developed. The secret of the new Atta flour process is using steel rolls instead of a grinding stone. A special, so called high-pressure mill is used in the new Atta process to achieve the particular characteristics of the Atta flour. To make this possible, Bühler developers have designed a new grinding machine: The PesaMill. Easy to clean and with a less intensive maintenance effort than a Chakki mill, the PesaMill processes up to 150 tonnes of wheat per day to produce consistent, high-quality Atta flours.

PesaMill replaces 20 Chakki mills

The compact design of the PesaMill enables the installation on a small footprint while replacing up to 20 Chakki mills with its high throughput capacity. The new Bühler Atta process guarantees high food safety and less maintenance effort. The re-dressing of the milling stones is no longer required. The innovative grinding system allows Atta flour producers to easily adjust their products to individual product characteristics. The PesaMill can produce flour according to specific values for water absorption, starch damage and granulation in order to meet regional market preferences.

In addition to the production advantages, the PesaMill was designed with sanitation, energy consumption (up to 10% less energy consumption compared to Chakki mills) and reliable and consistent production in mind. Plus, with the new Atta process, yield can be increased by 1.5%.

Extensive testing

The new Atta flour process technology was extensively tested in order to guarantee that the taste of the flour and its texture are the same as for flours produced with traditional methods. This was the biggest challenge because, up until now, attempts mostly failed on the requirement for the flour to have the typical taste of Atta flour.

The new process developed started at the Bühler Grain Technology Center in Uzwil, Switzerland. The further development into market readiness was completed at the Bühler Bangalore application center in India. The development of the pilot plant was supported by local Atta milling experts. An independent and official Indian testing office was established with the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) to analyze and test the flour produced by the new technology. These blind tests showed a high level of conformity in regards to taste and texture with the flour produced on Chakki mills.

Successful market introduction

After the first tests with selected Atta millers, the first plant began operating at a capacity of 130 tonnes per day in 2013. Since then, it has been working and has achieved significant increase in productivity as well as cost savings in an increasingly competitive market. The company owner said he is satisfied with the results and so are his customers.

Chakki Atta flour has been eaten in India since ancient times. For centuries, until the introduction of this new method, there was no innovation. The new product is well received, he said.

He added that the conventional Chakki mill stones will be discontinued in the next 15 years. More new Bühler plants are already in the planning stages for development and will soon be ready for installation and handover to customers.

Nicholas Trounce is head of product management, grain milling, at Bühler AG. He can be reached at