Since it opened in 2011, the Rothwell GrainEssentials Center has seen a lot of projects. Most have been initiated by customers; sometimes they start with an idea, other times they are a fully fleshed out formulation. These customer projects always start at lab scale with the intention to move to a bigger production run.
Recently, Katie Harris, Product Development & Nutrition Scientist, completed a unique project that went from concept to commercial production. The concept was Cinnamon Wheat Clusters, a granola starring HealthSenseTM High Fiber Wheat Flakes. This time, the customer was Bay State Milling Company.
The idea had been floated around to create a simple, safe HealthSense product we could share with employees and friends. We had HealthSense flakes, so granola felt like a natural direction. The end product would be used to get the word out about the new, high fiber wheat and communicate some of the health benefits.
Katie said the process of developing the product was very similar to how she’d handle something for a customer.
Katie sat down with Colleen Zammer, Senior Director of Marketing and Product Development, and discussed the goals for the project, which would be a typical first step with a customer. They set their parameters on fiber, sugars and calories. They also decided to stay away from added allergens, besides the wheat. That meant nuts, a common ingredient in this kind of application, would be out.
Katie knew that the finished product would be packaged in four-ounce bags with a clear plastic window on the front. This made aesthetics important for this formulation.
“We knew that the base was going to be mostly just wheat flakes,” Katie explained, so her next move was to build the ingredient list.
On top of the brown base, she added green pumpkin seeds. Then darker brown and smaller flax seeds made the mix.
An early version of the granola featured raisins. Those were cut because they were drying up during the bake. Katie also used millet and quinoa, two light colored grains from the Bay State Milling portfolio, in that first formulation. They were removed because during testing she discovered the texture was too hard.
As for flavor profile, they wanted something neutral. Our cinnamon, which is now produced in our new Woodland, California mill, was ideal.
“We got to cinnamon and maple because it’s a very neutral, very popular flavor for anything,” said Katie.
Early in the development process, it was determined that the granola would be commercially produced at Boston’s CommonWealth Kitchen. While their primary charge is as a business incubator for underserved entrepreneurs, they also have a commissary kitchen that does co-manufacturing. Their flexibility in production size was a huge advantage. Their staff also showed a lot of interest in our first-of-its-kind product.
“I liked the idea of collaborating with them. They were very receptive,” Katie said. “I felt like they took a lot of care in what they were doing.”
Once the formulation was perfected here at the Rothwell GrainEssentials Center, they ran a trial run at CommonWealth Kitchen. After a successful trial run, the staff at CommonWealth Kitchen made the 500 pounds of our order in one day. A week later, we picked up the 2,000 bags of HealthSense Granola, neatly packed in 77 boxes.
Along side developing what went into the brown pouches, the message on the outside was coming together. With their stated goal of spreading the word about HealthSense the packaging needed to convey a certain set of facts; a challenge our customers also undertake in creating their packaging.
The back panel reads:
The Journey from Resisting Carbs to Resistant Starch
HealthSense™ is a new generation of wheat, delivering a healthy dose of gut-nourishing fiber called resistant starch. It is a whole food fiber that comes from the farm, not a factory.
More than a decade ago, a group of researchers sought to improve human health through staple crops like wheat and set out to cultivate varieties containing the highest amounts of intrinsic fiber. They brought their successful seeds to Bay State Milling, and we hand selected U.S. farmers who believe in better health through agriculture to grow it for us. This tasty HealthSense snack contains twice the fiber as traditional granola, with no fiber additives.
Come join us on the journey!
HealthSense is available in refined and whole wheat flour and flakes.
The end result is a bag of visually appealing granola clusters. It’s a poppable snack, that can also be eaten with milk or on top of yogurt.