Wheat flour is a powder made from the grinding of wheat used for human consumption. Brown flour includes some of the grain's germ and bran, while whole grain or wholemeal flour is made from the entire grain, including the bran, endosperm, and germ. Germ flour is made from the endosperm and germ, excluding the bran.
Whole wheat flour is made by grinding uncooked, or raw, whole wheat berries. Because it includes the germ, bran, and endosperm, it has a higher nutritional content than white flour. Whole grain flour may be either stone-ground or steel-ground; if the latter, it will appear as "white whole wheat" flour. The latter is ground with a special steel mill, using high heat that can damage some of the nutrients.
White flour has long been assumed to have lower nutritional value than wholemeal flour because it was milled in such a way as to remove most of the outer layer of the grain (bran and germ), where most of the fiber and nutrients are located, including much of the protein. White flour is usually enriched with some of the fiber and protein that was removed during processing. White flour has less dietary fiber than wholemeal flour, although the precise amount depends upon which part(s) of the wheat berry is included.
Depending on the local custom, white flour may be called "wheat flour", "all-purpose flour", or simply "flour" in the U.S.; it is known as white wheat flour, all-purpose flour, or just plain flour in most English-speaking countries other than the United States - it has no other general name or at least none that is recognized in dictionaries.
On the Indian subcontinent white flour is usually called "maida." It is used to make many baked goods, including bread and cakes. Maida has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, typically 9%. As maida does not contain any germ, it does not produce the same type of flour as wholemeal. In Japan, wheat flour is known as "karako" (粕可) and is used to make noodles and confectioneries.
Wheat flour only contains 10% protein by mass, 70% of which is glutenin. It is therefore not a good substitute for regular flour in recipes. This makes it an excellent ingredient for gluten-free bread and baked goods, which require much higher amounts of protein to compensate for the lack of gluten.
Wheat flour contains high levels of glutamic acid, an amino acid responsible for umami flavor. Glutamate in the form of ribonucleotides is one of the most common food additives used in the food industry.
Global wheat flour production
The global production of wheat flour has increased significantly in recent years. This is due to the growing demand for wheat-based products, especially in developing countries. According to the International Grains Council (IGC), global production of wheat flour is expected to reach a record high of more than 320 million tonnes in 2016/17. This would be an increase of 2.5% from the previous year.
The majority of wheat flour production takes place in Asia, where it is a staple ingredient in many traditional dishes. China is the largest producer of wheat flour, followed by India and Pakistan. North America is also a major producer of wheat flour, with the United States being the largest producer in the region.
The growing demand for wheat flour is being driven by the expanding middle class in developing countries. This demographic group is increasingly interested in Western-style foods, such as bread, pasta, and cakes. As a result, they are buying more wheat flour to use at home. In addition, the food service industry in these countries is also growing, which is leading to more demand for wheat flour.
The IGC projects that global production of wheat flour will continue to grow in the years ahead, reaching 337 million tonnes by 2020/21. This growth will be driven by rising demand in Asia, as well as other developing regions such as Latin America and Africa.