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How to get the best flour for your biscuits

We are used to buy wheat flour from the millers, and we expect to get flour respecting several different specifications, and we may think that this is the end of our commitment.

The fact of having a specification as for any other raw material could give the idea that for wheat flour you could use the normal bidding processes that we use for other materials, (meaning the least priced material). But this is not true.

First of all, let us define which is the best flour for making biscuits, the answer is simple: the best flour is constant flour.

To try to get the best flour we can make partnerships with the best millers spanning long periods of time and give them visibility about our planning so they can act and take the measures necessary for ensuring that they will provide a constant flour, but this leaves a central aspect of our business in their hands.

We must understand our place in the wheat flour market to see how seriously millers can help us in this very important aspect.

We are really a tiny part of the wheat market. To give an example: in France where the production of wheat stands at 40 million Tons per year, one of the biggest players use 150.000 Tons per year, this is only 0,37% of the production, while for all food industries the consumption is 8 million Tons.

This means that all the food chain from field to distribution is dedicated to the biggest users, mainly the bread makers, so leaving the choice of our most important raw material to people that have so little interest is not the wisest thing to do.

We should get involved from the very beginning of the process.

The best wheats for biscuit making are different from the ones that are good for bread making.

Apart from the two different species that are Soft and Hard Wheat, ( Hard Wheat is used only for pasta), inside the Soft wheat there are different qualities, there are softer varieties that are the best adapted to produce biscuits and the harder and more elastic varieties good for making bread.

But in France and generally in Europe the softer varieties represent only 2% of all the production, unlike in the United States where it is 10 times more important.

If the complete food chain is dedicated to bread and the users don’t ask for it, nobody would care to produce a single soft wheat variety adapted to biscuit making.

So, what should we do:

       1. Lobbying for softer wheats

As a consultant, I can help your company to participate in all the instances that decide which type of wheat is produced in the country. There are around 100 varieties registered every year, but from those only one or maximum 2 are for biscuit making.

       2. Keeping close contact with wheat breeders

As a consultant, I can help your company to be in contact with the breeders of wheat varieties. There is Limagrain one of the biggest and Syngenta, but there are also many other small companies that work on wheat.

If we start from zero, a wheat variety development takes around 10 years, and it is finished when it is registered in one of the countries in Europe. Before that, Research has to analyze samples of every crop to make sure that the quality is correct and when there is a certainty that the variety is good for us, we must make sure that there will be enough seed multiplication to ensure early industrial trials.

       3. Keeping close contact with the farmers

There are times in the year where we should visit the farmers, especially close to the crop in June, to see the fields and talk about the different varieties and evolutions.

I can help you talk with the farmers and be aware of what is most important for them and try to use the same language.

This means that you should be able to understand the priorities concerning agronomy and weather. It is necessary to have an idea of how the wheat plant develops and what are the stages and what does it need at each stage. We should be aware of the menaces that the plant has for growing, in the form of pests and parasites.

I can help to try all the time to convince the farmers to produce the wheat that we need. If our choice is right they should be aware that they will get the same or better yields in the field from the softer varieties than from the normal bread wheats.

If they produce wheat for biscuits, they should use the least possible quantity of Nitrogen fertilization, which makes better wheat for biscuits but sometimes menaces the yield.

This is the single most important preoccupation from the farmer: YIELD because this means money.

When there is a new variety, they become especially reluctant to use it and change the ones that are giving good results in the last years.

       4. Working with the millers

I can help you contact the millers which is the normal part of the work for someone who works in Grain Procurement.

I can help you establish flour specifications that are functionally meaningful without non-useful parameters and ranges for the values sufficiently large to make it possible for the miller to produce it and for the factory to use them.

We can talk with the experts at the mills to choose the right varieties because they also make tests and keep aware of what is happening in the market.

We should periodically visit the mills to be aware of the problems they have.

       5. Helping the millers mill better flour for us 

The setup of a mill in Europe is adapted for the production of wheat flour for bread making. The objectives of this process are obtaining a flour that absorbs the maximum possible quantity of water.

This is because the bread is a product with 30 – 35% of water in his composition.

Our product is dry (3% water as a maximum) and so the mill setup is not fully adapted to our needs.

The bread makers business is selling water, our business is selling air.

Most of the mills can mill a mixture of 50% of soft wheat without modifying the flow sheet, and with the time this mixture is what we use for most of the biscuits. This mixture produces good biscuits, but I can show you that the biscuits can be better if the percentage of soft wheat is bigger.

I can help you work with the millers, the milling equipment makers and the milling schools to establish the best practices compatible with a “swing mill” able to mill either bread flour or biscuit flour.

Milling equipment

       6. Adjusting the quality of the flour with the Industrial people

As a continuing objective, we should work with the people in the factory who monitor and compare the quality of the flour coming from different batches of wheat with the plant results for waste and quality of the finished products.

The connection of the process experts with the millers is really quite fruitful because it enables us to really know which are the varieties that give the best results.

I can help you introduce clauses in the flour specifications concerning the type and proportion of wheat varieties susceptible of integrating the mix for our flour and this only action averts many problems.

We should be constantly in contact with the process experts and monitor especially at the crop change the influence of the wheat mix.

       7. Work with R&D

The R&D department, if you have it, is the owner of the specifications. I can help you work with them to ensure that all the changes that we want to make, are dully registered.

I can help you to get in contact with the Analytical experts who will help us install in the mills and the factories the best methods to follow the quality of the flours we use.

We should be in close contact with the Research persons that work trying to find the best wheat varieties and who inform us of the results of their analysis and advice which are the best choices for different products.

We can work together to educate and inform the millers about the best way to mill the right mixes or the single wheats necessary for our products.

       8. Work with the buyers

I can help you work with the buyers and make the right sourcing decisions and strategically determine which are the best choices for our milling partners, but we will also help them obtain the most accurate cost cards for each flour and each factory taking into account the specifications.

In Europe the mills are close to the factories, and the wheat is close to the mills, which gives the cheapest logistical situation, but if we have many factories, all of this obliges us to deal with multiple mills, that make difficult the rationalization and harmonization, because we have to speak with many different stakeholders that have their habitude.

All these 8 tasks will guarantee that the stock of wheat that lies in the mill’s silos for most of the year will be able to produce the best flour for the best biscuits.

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