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A slice of multi-grain can taste like regular white bread

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It tastes like white bread. It feels like white bread. It even looks somewhat like white bread. But wait: It's far more nutritious.

It's Ultragrain -- a better-for-you flour that a division of ConAgra Foods will unveil this week.

Some say the flour, milled very finely from a special white wheat bred by ConAgra, could improve the fortunes of the bread industry and the health of many Americans.

The most critical segment of bread eaters appears to like it: kids. Even in an age of better-for-you eating, 54% of kids prefer white bread. But many parents prefer that their kids get the nutrients of multigrain. In January, the Department of Agriculture is expected to update its nutritional guidelines to encourage increased daily consumption of whole grains.

ConAgra has spent millions of dollars in the past five years to develop the flour, which also can be used in cereals, pastas and tortillas.

''This has the potential to be the most significant new product we've had in 20 years,'' says Dave Colo, a division president at ConAgra Food Ingredients.

The flour is made in a patent-pending milling process that uses the whole grain but makes the particle sizes uniform. ConAgra's non-patented white wheat, which was not genetically modified, also tastes milder and sweeter than most varieties.

The flour has 3 times more dietary fiber than refined, unenriched wheat flour, 11 times more vitamin E, four times more niacin and five times more magnesium.

While the flour is not currently in use, ConAgra is negotiating to sell it to several major foodmakers. Colo says it could start appearing in products in three months.

Bonnie Liebman, at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says ''you're clearly better off with this than white enriched.''

It can't come soon enough for breadmakers. Sales in the $5.8 billion industry have been declining for four years.

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© Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.


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