In the food processing industry, many different types of grains can be used to create a variety of products.

Bulk grains are those that are processed in larger quantities. Commonly, these are wheat, corn, and soybeans. Depending on the end product, bulk grains usually don’t have to be handled too gently (in the case of corn flour, white flour, or animal feed, for example).

However, there are also specialty grains that are often more delicate. These include oats, rye, quinoa, barley, millet, rice, and amaranth.

Specialty grains are typically used to create snack foods such as granola bars or packaged for home cooking. They can also be used for baking purposes like bread and cakes.

Specialty grains are more expensive and need to be gently handled as they cannot be broken during processing. Learn about these unique ingredients below!

Oats

In 2020, more than 25 million metric tons of oats was produced worldwide. Oats are highly nutritious cereal grains commonly used in breakfast foods such as oatmeal and pancakes. They contain a high amount of soluble fiber, an excellent lipid profile, and are considered gluten-free.

The grain itself has a soft outer layer, which means that conveying it can be difficult. To avoid breakage, oats are typically ground into a fine powder (refined flour) before being mixed with other ingredients to create breakfast foods or baked goods.

However, not all food processors grind their oats. Those that want to preserve the whole grain texture require gentle material handling systems that keep the grains intact throughout processing. Oats can come in various forms: steel-cut oats, rolled oats, oat flour, and oat bran.

Rye

Similar to oats, rye is a significant source of dietary fiber. Different studies have confirmed that rye causes a much lower insulin response than refined wheat (white wheat flour). Therefore, rye is a great alternative for people with diabetes and those trying to lose weight.

Whole-grain rye products have good satiating properties. A Finnish study suggests that this is down to the porous structure of the grain.

However, this porous structure is challenging to maintain during processing. A conveying system that can handle the grain without breaking it is crucial to keep product quality high. In processing, rye can come in the form of rye berries (whole rye kernels), cracked rye or rye chops (equivalent to steel-cut oats), rye flakes (equivalent to rolled oats), and rye flour.

Quinoa

Technically, quinoa is a seed and not a grain. Nutritionists tend to group it with whole grains because of its high protein content. Nutritional benefits of quinoa include compounds such as several B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, and other nutrients. Besides being used for baking purposes, quinoa can be ground into flour to create gluten-free baked goods.

Additionally, quinoa seeds are often packaged and sold as whole grain. Handling the seeds with care is crucial to maintaining their quality. This is especially true after the seeds undergo the process of drying to avoid germination.

The dry, brittle nature of quinoa seeds makes it difficult for them to pass through a typical conveying system. To avoid breaking the seeds, they must be handled with care in an enclosed system that doesn’t expose them to the environment.

Barley

Barley is most commonly used for brewing beer and beer production. However, it is also used to create energy drinks and other foods like cereal bars or pasta. It is rich in vitamin B, as well as iron and manganese.

When barley kernels pass through a conveying system with strong vibrations, they can easily break into pieces and lower their value as an ingredient for food processing purposes.

As a whole grain, barley requires gentle material handling systems that don’t expose the grains to harsh environments like high-temperature conveying lines. Otherwise, they will become too brittle, leading to product loss and compromised product quality.

Barley can be processed into barley flour, but also other products such as barley flakes and grits.

Millet

Millet is an important food crop used mainly in Asia and Africa, especially in Nigeria, Mali, and India. It is one of the world’s ancient grains and has been used for food production for millennia.

Millet can be cooked like rice or quinoa to create a gluten-free alternative for people with celiac disease who cannot eat wheat products such as bread and pasta. Manufacturers use millet to create gluten-free products such as breakfast cereals, baking mixes, and snacks.

However, millet is a fragile grain that easily breaks into pieces when coming in contact with other grains or during processing. Therefore, it should be handled carefully throughout the conveying process – especially since most systems expose these smaller particles directly to high temperatures.

Luckily, conveying systems that can handle millet without exposing it to environmental factors are available – such as tubular drag cable conveyors. This helps maintain the delicate nature of millet and avoid product loss or compromised quality.

Rice

As a grain, rice is highly versatile. White rice, brown rice, wild rice, and others can be processed into a wide variety of different products, from rice flour to pasta. It is most commonly conveyed as a raw material, but in some parts of the world, parboiled rice can be used as well.

Parboiled rice is processed under high pressure and temperature, making it easier to process into various food products.

In all of its forms, rice requires gentle handling throughout the conveying system – especially since it is a delicately shaped grain that can easily break during processing.

Mechanical conveyors that are the best choice for conveying rice are those that expose the product to little environmental factors and don’t generate vibrations.

This minimizes damage to the delicate nature of rice, making it easier for manufacturers to process into a wide variety of products.

Amaranth

Amaranth plants are classified as pseudocereals (a non-grain used in the same way as grains) because they are used to make the same types of products as cereals. The yield of amaranth grain is similar to maize or rice.

Amaranth grains are processed into flour for use in baked goods such as bread or cakes. They are rich in protein, especially the amino acid lysine, which is not found in other grains.

Like all the other specialty grains on our list, amaranth should be carefully conveyed to minimize product loss and quality issues. Commonly, amaranth is processed by a pneumatic conveyor or a belt system to move the delicate grain from one location to another without coming in contact with other products that could damage it.

However, the pneumatic and belt conveyors are not ideal for various reasons. For example, a belt conveyor can generate high-frequency vibrations that could damage the grain. A pneumatic system requires careful control to avoid putting too much pressure on the delicate grains, or they will break into pieces.

For these reasons, tubular drag cable systems are recommended for conveying amaranth from one location to another.

Amaranth can also be processed into flakes for use as an ingredient in breakfast cereals or baked goods – but these should also be conveyed using a gentle system that minimizes exposure to environmental factors.

Specialty Grain Industry Trends

All across the globe, consumers are looking for suitable replacements to commonly used grains such as wheat. The primary reason is that consumers are looking for gluten-free options and grains that provide high protein content – or even a combination of the two traits.

Statistics confirm that, in the United States, whole grain consumption has been steadily rising, with approximately 95% of people now eating it on a daily basis. This is especially true among younger generations that are looking for healthier alternative grains.

Based on these trends of human consumption of grains, it is very likely that manufacturers will look towards replacing common grains with specialty ones such as rye, quinoa, and amaranth in the future.

Manufacturers have increased their production capacity by investing in various new technologies and equipment such as conveying systems. The goal of this investment is to reduce costs and improve product quality and safety.

In the end, consumers will benefit from these advancements in food processing technology by being able to enjoy more high-quality products daily without worrying about negative side effects caused by various allergens.

Conclusion

Many specialty grains require unique handling systems – both during processing and conveying. Systems like tubular drag cable conveyors minimize the risk of damage or loss by exposing products to little environmental factors throughout each step of the process.

Specialty grains include amaranth, quinoa, rye, barley, millet, rice, and others – each requiring a unique system to maximize product quality.

These are just some examples of the many specialty grains in food processing that pose different handling needs. To learn more about how they can be applied in your facility or business – don’t hesitate to contact us at Cablevey! Our conveying systems are ideal for minimizing product loss and maximizing the quality of specialty grains in food processing.