Sliced white bread on a wooden chopping board with chequered table cloth

Source: Getty Images / Sinan Kocaslan

Organic miller Shipton Mill has partnered with Aberystwyth University on a research project which could see healthier white loaves made available across the UK.

The research team at the Welsh university will be studying the milling and blending process for white flour in an effort to enhance its nutritional value while still allowing it to deliver the sensory attributes consumers have come to expect from white bread.

The work, which is funded by Innovate UK’s ‘Better Food For All’ initiative, could see UK-sourced peas, beans, and oats added to wheat flour to boost its nutritional value.

“This project builds on our belief that variety and nature-friendliness is the way to measure the success of a crop, not speed and growth,” explained Chris Holister, head of product development at Shipton Mill. “In milling, our craft is to provide bakers with excellent and reliable results that work with nature and what the climate and seasonality can offer. We hope that this work can help make for a healthier and happier diet for very many people.”

The university said 65% of all oats in the UK are grown from varieties developed at Aberystwyth, making it a leading centre for the development of new oat, bean, and pea varieties.

Dr Catherine Howarth, from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences at Aberystwyth University said the research was a “very exciting opportunity to improve people’s diets, especially those who favour the look and sensory attributes of white bread”.

Dr Catherine Howarth from Aberystwyth University in a field of wheat

Source: Aberystwyth University

Dr Catherine Howarth

“The project underlines how our leading plant research here in Wales can make a difference to people’s lives. We hope this will be another chance to put our work, especially on beans, peas, and oats, to very good use,” Howarth added.

It is one of 47 projects to receive a share of £17.4m from Innovate UK to improve food quality, create functional foods, boost nutrition, develop new proteins, and extend the shelf life of healthy and fresh food.

Oxford-based Modern Baker is among those to benefit from the fund, receiving £450,000 last year to help it improve the health credentials of ultra-processed foods including pastries, breakfast cereals, pasta, ready meals, and yoghurts. The firm first brought what it dubbed the “healthiest loaf ever made” to market in 2021 and has since partnered with Hovis and Marks & Spencer to bring a mass-produced version to shelves. The latest version is produced using the Chorleywood bread process and includes optimised fibres – the benefits of which include slower glucose absorption, reduced-calorie load, and optimised gut microbiome activity, according to the company.

Dr Stella Peace, executive director for the healthy living and agriculture domain at Innovate UK, said the projects showcase the extensive range and quality of innovation within the agri-food sector of the UK. “With global challenges like food security, sustainability, and nutrition, creative solutions are needed to make a tangible impact,” she noted.