Essex-based food ingredient manufacturer Edme invited students from Manningtree High School to join a tour of its mill and a hands-on lesson on enzymes, malt and baking, to celebrate National Science and Engineering Week.
The 30 students learned how Edme uses wheat, barley, rye and oat grains to produce malted flour, flakes and kibbles. These natural ingredients are then used by bakers around the UK to produce bread, cakes and biscuits.
Peter Tichbon, Edme’s managing director, said: “The British economy needs thriving manufacturing industries, which in turn need great scientists and engineers. What better opportunity for us to help inspire the next generation than National Science and Engineering Week?”
Technical director Simon Wooster entertained the students with experiments on enzyme activity and explained them the importance of starch to the texture of food and how great quality grain is needed to produce the best flour. The class learned how germination is detrimental to the quality of flour, but how essential it is to the production of malt.
The plant tour showed students how ingenious engineers must be to design and build machinery to sort through and process the grain. “I never knew how many processes were required to make the bread we buy and eat: I really enjoyed finding out just how complex it really is,” said one of the students, Amelia Baines.
There was also a “science of bread-making” demonstration with Richard Ball, Edme’s technical baker, which proved very popular. The students stretched the dough and learned about the effect of malt and enzymes on its elasticity.
Edme hopes the visit will get the students thinking about careers in food manufacturing, “an industry which is not only vital to the economy, but also helps to feed the nation,” as Peter Tichbon pointed out.
Following the session, two thirds of the class said they might consider a career in the food or food ingredient industry.