It’s no secret that farmers grow a lot of Canada Western Red Spring wheat. CWRS accounts for more than 75 per cent of Canada’s annual wheat production, and last year a staggering 49 countries imported 13.8 million tonnes. It has a reputation in domestic and international markets for its superior milling and baking quality, but what other key ingredient accounts for its success?
The strength of CWRS is hidden in its sheer versatility and its ability to jump from one role to the next. It’s ideal for the production of high-volume pan breads, it has well-balanced elasticity and extensibility for noodle applications, and it can be used as a flour improver when blended with weaker-protein wheat. Quite simply, it’s useful in just about any flour-based end product.
“That’s the thing about CWRS. It’s quite versatile,” says Elaine Sopiwnyk, Cigi’s director of grain quality. “A lot of times, what millers like about it is that you could potentially make different flours that have different qualities for a number of different end products.”
That versatility is borne out by the fact that countries from virtually every global region import CWRS — from Asia to the Middle East, plus Europe, Africa and North, South and Central America — all with their vastly different product requirements.
Available in three milling grades, CWRS is able to fill that tricky role of being able to efficiently satisfy protein content and quality with each market’s need to balance cost and customer specifications.
Its protein strength makes CWRS excellent in baking applications, as it is used to make not only pan bread but also various flatbreads, including pita, naan, chapati and even some hearth breads.
“CWRS is used a lot for pan breads, typically referred to as “high-volume” pan breads because bakers are looking for really good loaf volume, where the loaf is quite large in terms of height and size,” says Sopiwnyk.
But the bread wheat market is surprisingly diverse, Sopiwnyk adds. “You’d think a loaf of bread is the same everywhere, but it’s not.”
There are slight variations in pan breads among different countries due to a variety of factors. For example, different countries like different levels of sweetness in their bread, some have reduced salt requirements, and some processing conditions are unique to a particular region.
Regardless, with its bright flour colour and capacity for high water absorption, CWRS distinguishes itself by producing dough that mixes well with good processing and fermentation tolerance for all baking processes.
For a wide range of noodle and other Asian products, CWRS, with its well-balanced elasticity and extensibility, promises a smooth sheeting process. For markets that prefer pasta made from common wheat, CWRS may be used alone or in conjunction with durum for pasta production.
CWRS is also known for maintaining high flour milling yields with low protein losses. It has a strong but mellow gluten strength that ultimately results in a dough with good balance, making CWRS an ideal wheat “improver.”
“It is used as a blending wheat to improve overall quality while meeting cost requirements,” says Sopiwnyk. “Often, markets have access to domestic wheat or other lower-quality wheat that may have lower freight and overall costs, but these wheats might not have the quality that CWRS has. So in that case, they would blend in CWRS at 20 or 30 per cent to improve the quality.”
While CWRS’s capacity isn’t limitless, the breadth of applications it offers to so many different countries, all with different product requirements, is what gives this Canadian wheat an edge in the global wheat market.