FREC was founded on a commitment to solving global food challenges, lead by science, supporting key initiatives of health promotion, and sustainable agriculture. Through our collaborative approach to fundamental research and focus on health, wellness, and sustainability, we enable the translation of data into impactful industrial solutions. To provide valuable solutions, we keep our research platform aligned with the current and potentially new challenges facing the food and flavor industries.
Health and Wellness
The flavor quality of food is known to be one of the main criteria that influences food choice, and therefore, is a key component of healthy eating and sustainable agriculture. The healthiest food products can have a limited societal impact if the population, as a whole, does not consume them. For example, even though experts advise at least half of the recommended grain intake should be from whole grains, less than 10% of the American population meets that goal. When foods are manufactured with whole grain flour instead of refined wheat flour, lower product acceptability is often observed, directly affecting consumption. From a manufacturing standpoint, the development of high flavor quality, healthier food choices can be challenging. By working alongside the food industry to find new approaches for the development of healthy food, while maintaining consumer acceptability, progress will be made towards removing a significant barrier to healthier eating.
In the presenbtation below, Dr. Devin Peterson, FREC Director and Foods For Health Faculty Lead, presents "Transforming Foods for Health".
FREC works closely with various stakeholders on the advancement of food crops and commodities through conventional and modern breeding and cultivation practices. Collectively, we aim to develop food materials that are naturally more flavorful, while maintaining advantageous traits for production such as yield, disease resistance, and environmental health. Agronomists and horticulturists can utilize this information to bring sustainable commodities to the market that are better tasting and provide enhanced consumer acceptability needed for impact.
As an example, FREC has investigated the flavor profile of intermediate wheatgrass (IWG), a potentially sustainable alternative to wheat-based products due to its beneficial agronomic and environmental properties, as well as its rich nutritional profile. Our researchers have actively identified the flavor components and attributes, critical for developing advanced breeding lines for food applications. More about this work can be found in the publication Comparison of the Aroma Profiles of Intermediate Wheatgrass and Wheat Bread Crusts.
FREC has also participated in research on hybrid hazelnuts, which are being investigated as a strategy to address environmental concerns with annual row crop production in the Midwestern region of the United States. European hazelnut cultivars possess many desirable commercial traits but are unable to be grown efficiently in the Midwest. American cultivars readily grow in the Midwest but are less commercially viable due to their smaller size, thicker shell, lower yield, and bitter taste. FREC is currently working to identify compounds that drive consumer linking in new European-American hazelnut hybrids. Our findings will help identify metabolic precursors and possible genetic markers that will provide breeders with a tool to target high flavor quality in new cultivars, needed for success.