Down to the crunch: Is there a market for Irish grains in snack production?

Value-added grains and products – such as bread, biscuits and crackers – are needed to improve the profitability of the Irish tillage industry. This seemed to be a recurring theme at today’s Teagasc National Tillage Conference.

It was also the focus of Eimear Gallagher’s presentation. Eimear is a food scientist at Teagasc Ashtown.

Bread, crackers and biscuits could help in making this a reality. However, a few things need to be investigated before these snacks are produced.

Apart from the obvious nutritional and taste analysis, how a cracker sounds (acoustic properties) when you’re eating it, spread ratio on a biscuit and shelf life must all be examined.

The food scientist is currently using Irish barley and oats to produce bread, snacks and baked goods. The research is funded by the Department of Agriculture and is also supported by many members of the seed and food industries.

The team involved in the research project have replaced wheat with barley in bread and produced biscuits and crackers using Irish cereals.

These products were tested for characteristics such as: baking properties; nutritional value; flavour; crumb structure; fermentation properties; and the extensional rheology of dough.

Over three harvests, nine barley and eight oat varieties were used to produce these foods and snacks. The oats and barley were also investigated as sources of soluble fibre, beta glucan, phenolics and essential amino acids.

What next?

The project has just finished and the final results are being prepared. The information collected and the results of these trials will be presented to the food industry.

Open days will also be held to inform members of the food industry on how these products can be used in the production of their products.

Eimear added: “With care, it is possible to incorporate Irish cereals in bakery formulations.”