Waxy-Pen, a wheat developed by ARS breeders and collaborators, is a main ingredient in the commercial cereal Hi! Happy Inside, shown here with raspberries and blueberries. (Photo by Peggy Greb.)

A new breakfast cereal made its commercial debut in January 2019, and one of its main ingredients is a type of wheat developed by Agricultural Research Service breeders and collaborators.

The wheat cultivar, named Waxy-Pen, is what’s known as a waxy wheat. The starch in normal wheat kernels contains about 75% amylopectin, a sugar molecule. But Waxy-Pen’s starch contains 100% amylopectin. The starch’s unique composition can improve the texture, shelf life and other qualities of foods made with it.

“Waxy starch has dramatically different processing properties, such as lower gelatinization temperature and higher water swelling. It puffs really well, with large expansion and crispy texture,” says Craig Morris, a research chemist at the ARS Western Wheat Quality Laboratory, a part of the Wheat Health, Genetics, and Quality Research Unit in Pullman, Washington.

Morris and his colleagues released Waxy-Pen (then named Penawawa-X) in 2006, after more than a decade of conventional breeding to alter the wheat kernel’s starch composition. To identify possible uses for Waxy-Pen, Morris sent dozens of samples to bakers, millers, food companies and others. Ultimately, Kellogg’s collaborated with Morris to explore the wheat’s potential, and now, whole-grain Waxy-Pen is a major ingredient in HI! Happy Inside cereal, which the company markets as promoting intestinal health.

The cereal brand’s debut represents one of the first commercial uses of waxy wheat and could attract the interest of millers, food processors, health-minded consumers and wheat growers looking to tap new value-added markets.

Read more about the development of Waxy-Pen at http://bit.ly/2UI7FXY.

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