KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI, U.S. — Changing consumer demands, including the desire for “clean” labels, are altering the way commercial bakers have traditionally baked bread and have created the need to reward growers for wheat functionality over yield, Hayden Wands, vice-president of global procurement, commodities at Grupo Bimbo S.A.B. de C.V, Dallas, Texas, U.S., told the Wheat Quality Council at its annual meeting in Kansas City on Feb. 20.

“Our consumers are changing in their day-to-day demands,” Wands said, citing as an example, consumers’ preference for clean labels (the least amount of ingredients listed on a package, and nothing they can’t pronounce). As a result, bakers need to be able to buy flour with specific baking qualities since they are limited with solutions that can improve the quality of the flour through additives such as some dough conditioners or emulsifiers.

“It forces more functionality on the flour itself,” he said.

“The baking industry hasn’t done an adequate job of explaining how our needs have changed,” Wands said.

Those changes have been dictated by consumer demands as well as the need for greater efficiency and cost savings in the baking industry, he said. Commercial bakers are running lines much faster, which requires certain baking qualities in flour that may not have been necessary in the past, or that have given way to plant breeders’ focus on higher yields, he said.

Wands reiterated the need for better collaboration between bakers, millers, growers and plant breeders from similar comments in October 2018 to the North American Millers’ Association as reported in the Nov. 6, 2018, issue of Milling & Baking News, a sister publication of World Grain.

Wheat breeders, whose primary customers are growers, have made yield the primary trait while milling and baking quality needs to be incorporated as well, Wands said, and growers haven’t been incentivized to produce wheat with higher quality. Premiums are being paid to the transportation industry to move wheat and flour of with preferred baking qualities to locations where they are needed, he said.

“We are paying premiums, just not necessarily to the farmer,” Wands said.

He noted the increased use of hard spring wheat in the past few years for its desirable baking qualities (including stronger flour) that must be shipped long distances to be blended with hard winter wheat. As a result, the transportation industry is receiving the “premiums” in the form of shipping costs rather than the growers for quality.

“The current supply chain can limit the availability of highly functional wheat varieties,” Wands said.

Wands suggested millers adopt a “hybrid” identity preservation system in which growers would be incentivized to produce specific wheat varieties with desirable milling and baking qualities. Those varieties then could be blended locally so that premiums could be paid to growers rather than to the transportation industry, he said.

The system would differ from an actual identity preservation system in that millers would not contract acres for specific varieties but would promote desirable varieties to growers, Wands said. Such a transition “is going to take time,” he added, as bakers would have to work with their milling partners, who in turn would collaborate with growers, and eventually breeders would come into the mix with greater focus on quality over yield.