Marketing director David Pearson says production at its Westhove site, which proces-ses maize, wheat, rice, oat, barley and rye, is currently running at full capacity 30,000 tonnes per year but there are plans to extend production, as the firm looks to grow its business in the UK and across northern Europe. He adds that LCI has seen around a 11-12% increase in sales in the past year, with the annual growth rate between 10-15% since 2002. "Our ambition is to double the size of the business in the next three years, through internal growth, joint ventures and acquisitions," he explains.
In terms of LCI's global sales of bakery ingredients, France is its key market, but it also supplies the UK, Germany and the US, as well as Eastern Europe and Russia. Future growth in functional flours, at least, is likely to come from countries that have the most highly developed production processes those in northern Europe adds Pearson.
To create its functional flours LCI uses a technique called the Farigel process a heat treatment that delivers special functionalities to the cereals. Following the milling of cereal kernels, the flour, bran and fibres undergo a hydro-thermic treatment, before they are ground and sieved.
The firm claims there are a number of benefits to using its ingredients for example improving the thickening, binding and hydration of products to alter the texture for added crunchiness, to change the taste or colour and to provide added nutritional benefits such as extra fibre or minerals.
One of the products developed by Limagrain through the Farigel process is 'waxy wheat', a specific composition of starch, made up of 100% amylopectine, which can help prevent staling. It can be used to replace modified starch, is freeze thaw-resistant, and can also be used to replace fat in different applications. The gelatisation can be stopped at different levels, to achieve certain viscosities useful in, for example, stopping a layer of puréed fruit from sinking to the bottom of a cake. LCI's masa flour is suitable for use in soft wrap tortillas, and tortilla chips, while its functional flours can also be used in pastry, such as in profiteroles, to keep it softer for longer.
LCI says there are two key issues that customers and manufacturers are looking for: health and cost savings. "People don't buy snacks to be healthy, but a lot of people don't buy snacks because they aren't healthy," says Anne Lionnet, marketing manager bakery products. With this in mind, LCI has just launched a number of new functional products, designed to meet these trends, offering three solutions for different bakery applications: the first solution was the use of waxy wheat to reduce the fat in brownies; the second was the use of waxy wheat to reduce the fat in bread; and the third was a new ingredient, Hydra 0.2%, which aids dough hydration. "Fat is traditionally used to soften products and get a melt-in-the-mouth experience, and by using 'waxy wheat' you get the same effect," says Lionnet. With 2% waxy wheat per 100g of flour, you can reduce the fat content of a brownie by 40%, as well as achieving a creamier texture, claims the firm.
Hydra 0.2% aims to save bakery firms money by increasing the level of hydration achievable in dough, without affecting its processing abilities. It allows a gain of 4% hydration, from 60% to 64%, with trials showing that the dough didn't become sticky or lose shape, and was process-tolerant. Based on a traditional recipe for a French stick, using 100kg flour, 1.8kg salt, 2.5kg of yeast, 0.5kg of dough conditioner, but increasing the water content by 4kg to 64kg, and adding 0.2kg of Hydra 0.2%, the firm said a baker could achieve an overall cost saving of 1%.