THEME: Nutrition


Unlocking new functionalities and health benefits in wheat product applications  

Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council



Iris Joye, University of Guelph

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2018 - 2023



Although only approximately 10% of the Canadian population suffers from gluten sensitivity, about 30% of Canadians have indicated they avoid consuming wheat products. For the wheat industry, that means that strengthening wheat’s image by creating new products with additional health benefits and cleaner labels with fewer ‘foreign-sounding’ ingredients is of utmost importance. 

This insight has brought together a group of food companies - Ardent Mills, Dare Foods, Everspring Farms, Griffith Foods, Mondelez International, and P&H Milling - to support research led by Prof. Iris Joye at the University of Guelph into new products and processes for wheat. All are members of the Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council (OCIRC). 

“It’s a shame that wheat has been vilified; up to 30 percent of people have decreased their wheat consumption, but that means they are also losing the health benefits associated with wheat consumption, like a high fibre intake,” says Dr. Joye. “Wheat is so important around the world and should still be part of a healthy diet, so we are working to unlock new functionalities and health benefits of wheat.” 

Specifically, the project focuses on unlocking new functionalities and healthy properties of soft wheat through sprouting and of coloured wheat through fractionation; and identifying what impact the aging of sprouted and coloured wheat flour or whole meal will have on functionality and health properties. 

Joye’s team has developed an in-lab sprouting process where soft wheat varieties are sprouted for different lengths of time and then tested in dough and bread-making trials to see how sprouting time affects the quality of end products, such as bread that is larger, darker or has a softer crumb. 

Coloured wheat varieties have anthocyanins - health-boosting antioxidants - in their outer layers whose benefits are often not used to their full potential. Joye and her team are looking at ways those antioxidants can be extracted and then used to provide health benefits in other applications, as well as how sprouting coloured wheat varieties could impact anthocyanin extraction yields.  

“What we really want is something we can blend with regular unsprouted flour so that we can have product labels with fewer ingredients while maintaining or improving the quality of the bread,” she says. “So, we are looking at whether sprouting will affect the end product quality, and how we can use antioxidants for best results in commercial applications.” 

Everspring Farms is one of the industry partners in the project. The company works with a wide range of grains and seeds from wheat, barley and rye to pumpkin, chia and amaranth to produce sprouted and germinated grains used in bakery products and other food manufacturing applications. With consumer interest in sprouting on the rise, Everspring is keen to take advantage of new opportunities in the sprouted ingredients market. 

“Sprouting resonates with people because it is a natural process, but there is a lot we don’t yet know about what happens during the sprouting process and why,” says Everspring President and Co-Founder Dale Donaldson. “This research with Dr. Joye is helping find those answers so we can provide better, more precise products to our customers and that we can provide the scientific evidence they need to meet their specific labelling and product certification requirements.” 

Ultimately, he adds, the project’s outcomes will help increase the value of a commodity crop like wheat for everybody along the value chain, including consumers who are seeking healthier, more nutritious food products.

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What does this project mean to Canada’s

food processing industry?

Wheat is an important part of a healthy diet, as well as playing a significant economic role in the food manufacturing industry. New functionalities and health benefits of wheat can open up new product opportunities and markets for Canada’s food manufacturing businesses.

Why is this innovation important?


HEALTH: Better understanding of wheat sprouting and the health benefits it can offer consumers through cereal products, like flour and bread.

CLEAN LABELS: Functional improvements to existing wheat-based products with fewer ingredients will improve taste and texture, increase shelf life and allow for clean labels. 

MARKET DEVELOPMENT: Healthier products that will appeal to consumers who are reducing their wheat intake. 

About Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council

The Ontario Cereal Industry Research Council (OCIRC) is a privately funded, open collaborative organization that supports a unique research program at the University of Guelph in cereal science and technology. OCIRC uses its members’ contributions to leverage additional public research dollars in order to fund discovery, innovation, and development of skilled people. 

About the project team

Dr. Iris Joye is an Associate Professor in Cereal Chemistry and Biochemistry in the Department of Food Science at the University of Guelph. She completed her B.Sc., M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Bioscience Engineering at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven, Belgium), where she remains active as a part-time lecturer. 

Dale Donaldson is the co-owner and President of Everspring Farms, a food ingredient business in southwestern Ontario.