When I was young, no one sold breakfast cereals by talking about grains. They talked about taste (sweetness), about exciting new shapes, about nutritional fortification, and also drove children to a frenzy collecting useless trinkets inside their favourite cereal boxes.
After the Smurfs and hero figures, came the next great marketing idea – wholegrain. This genius description was in part derived from the medically endorsed advice to increase fibre intake, which captured the imagination of the bowel movement obsessed middle classes. My father was either so afraid of or so enraptured by this craze that he used to sprinkle bran onto almost everything he ate.
Where did this word come from? What does it mean? At a food show not so long ago I met a very self satisfied marketing man who professed to have invented the introduction of the term ‘wholegrain’. Older and wiser, I held myself back from physical violence, and sated my frustration with a rant, which is much more entertaining.
Wholegrain. It’s a catch all feel good title that allows big and not so big food to create an umbrella of wholesomeness for all their cereal based foods, no matter how refined, sweetened and processed they are. When it says wholegrain that means the whole grain is in it, right? Well yes…that’s what they started with. And in theory as long as they don’t discard any of the grain, then they can sustain the claim on the pack. What they don’t talk about is what they subject the wholegrain to in order to make their biscuits of wheat, their pillows of oats, their big bran flakes and their bizarrely perfect shaped corn flakes.
Strangely enough loops, pillows and massive flakes are not natural, and cannot be produced by simply pressing a grain between rollers…you make these unnatural shapes with an extruder. An extruder is a fearsome machine – very big, very complex and very heavy duty – as in one end you feed in a mush of refined (ground up) (whole)grains or mix of refined (whole)grains and other ingredients which is then rammed into a shaping chamber under immense pressure (which generates fierce heat, destroying nutrients), before being released to atmosphere through a shaping die, when it is then miraculously transformed into a supersize flake or pillow, or loop. If you are very clever you can also squirt a mush of refined milk solids flavoured with cocoa and some hazelnut flavour (and more sugar) inside a pillow and hey presto, you’ve just made a best selling wholegrain cereal. Ah, did I forget? You can then take these extruded wholegrain shapes and tumble them inside a big stainless steel drum, spraying them with sugars and flavours so you get a flavoursome wholegrain bite with every mouthful.
Industrial wholegrain. How do you like it? I don’t, and here at Rude Health we have no intention of spoiling the natural energy and nutrients inside the wholegrain with such invasive processes. We will not use extrusion or highly refined ingredients. Take our Spelt Flakes for instance. One spelt grain equals one flake. All we do is steam, roll and dry the spelt grains. The Oatmeal? Stabilise (steam) the oat grain, and then cut it with stainless steel blades/crush it a little in a roller. You could make these foods in your kitchen. Simple. In this way all our grains are truly wholegrain.