A maltitude of achievements

Muntons is a leading global player in the supply of malts, malt extracts, flours and flakes and many other malted ingredients relevant to the food and drinks industry exporting around half of its production

The origins of Muntons provides an insight into how the company has developed and honed its skills in the malt industry, and as an introduction to the company manufacturing and sustainability director Nigel Davies explored this: “The business goes back to 1921, originally it was a business that made malt extract, so right back at the start of the business it made malt and also processed it into malt extract. Skip forward to 1948 and that was when we moved to our current site in Stowmarket, and we now have a maltings there. Since that time, we have also opened another facility in Bridlington in Yorkshire. At Stowmarket we have got facilities for making malt into malt extract which we can also blend with additional healthy ingredients required by our customers and dry in two ways, we can either do it on a band drier, which tends to go into products such as the malted milk beverages sector or use spray drying which is ideal for producing a fine consistency for the baked goods sector. We have mills to make our malt into flour – and we also crush it for small brewers, and package liquid extract for home beer making. These are just some of the products we make in Stowmarket, but there is quite an impressive range of products.” While Muntons has clearly come a long way since its start almost a century ago, it has also kept true to its traditional values, retaining the passion and knowledge it has always had for malt and the malting process. Peoples’ tastes may have evolved and changed over this time but Muntons has been able to both match these and be a partof changing them.

Whether it is in drink or food Muntons malt can claim to be a key factor in anything from breads to beers, and this diversity was something that Nigel elaborated on: “If you split us then we would probably be 50 per cent food and 50 per cent beers and whisky’s.” Nigel then continued to discuss these two sides of the business: “If you take ordinary malt that would go into beers, that is a fair proportion of our market, and they sell well internationally. I believe we are dispatching to around 90 countries now. The malt will either go into beer, or into whisky production, and our major markets for whisky are Scotland, the US, Japan and Taiwan. The last two years we have supplied the companies who produced winning whisky in the main international competitions with some if not all of the malt they used, which is quite nice to be associated with. On the food side, we go into a whole range of products – there is quite a long list. There is the obvious bread and cakes as a broad category, but it also goes into all sorts of things, it will go into chocolates, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, Maltesers – all the centers for Maltesers that are made in the western hemisphere start with us, we make the malty dried powder for the centres. I also believe that every Kellogg’s Corn Flake factory in the world now uses malt extract from us as well. The product even goes into very different things like cough medicines, lipsticks – so a very extensive range.”

Since it seems as though there is no end to the use of malt, and with most people unaware of how much it is used already, it can then raise the query as to why is it that malt is so useful, and Nigel provided some answers to this: “The reason for this is that there are three core attributes to using malt, it can help with colour, with flavour, and with texture. Obviously malt extract has sugars, it also has protein in it, and as soon as you heat it up it goes brown so it will impart colour when added as an ingredient, but as well as all this it will give a nice malty flavour. Then with special malts they can be roasted in one of two ways, if you take malt halfway out of the malting process and you put it into a large roaster you can effectively stew it first – the starch inside turns to sugar in the process and then the sugar crystallises – so you have crystal malt. You can create anything from sweet sugar style to a treacle sugar, but they are all crystal malts. The other way is to take the malt we normally produce that we call white malt, which is effectively finished and would normally go off to brewers and distillers, but you can now roast this which will result in a really dark colour that is associated with things like Guinness or Christmas pudding. Then after the taste and colour, there is the texture, we can make something that is extremely sticky like a malt loaf, an attribute which we call diastatic because it is created by natural starchdigesting enzymes in the malt, brings with it benefits of moisture retention and longer shelf life. We can also make malt products that are extremely non diastatic which would make a biscuit really crispy.” Since it can offer those three fundamental aspects to food and drink products it is no wonder that it is so widely used, and increasingly the  referred option to artificial options.

Another key strength of the product of Muntons is that it offers very good nutritional benefits, while also being low in fat, low in salt, and containing essential minerals, it is particularly high in specific vitamins like B12 and B9. Since the malt offers this range of vitamins and minerals it means can be a very useful for everyone’s diet, but particularly vegetarians or vegans – as normally B12 is gained through consuming meat. With the addition of malt extract and malt products it can ensure that those that have specific requirements do not have to have a bland diet. Nigel continued to build on the various ways malt produce can be used: “We can add a sweet malt extract and yet depending on how you blend it you can make things taste more cheesy or make things taste more salty, without any additional salt. The other thing we are seeing people use malt extract for is as a flavour enhancer – for example it can be used when making cookies, and it will make them more chewy, the fruit more juicy and even take less time to cook.”

New innovation
Muntons is always looking for new ways to use or improve its products, and Nigel elucidated on something new the company is working on: “We have a product called maltichoc that is a real innovation, it is a combination of ingredients that makes it a cocoa replacer. The benefit of this is it is cheaper than cocoa – it has huge saving in road and air miles, and also a massive saving in terms of deforestation. The result of this new innovation is that we are selling more product sourced from local farms, and the customer is making a cake that has lower cost, is more environmentally friendly and yet perceived by the end customer as a premium product, due to it actually tasting better, and that it is true sustainability, things customers do not always expect to go together.”

The market in Asia is a promising one for Muntons, as there is already a clear demand for malt there, and malt-based drinks are a mainstay of most supermarkets and food places. The drink in Asia called Milo has a large place in the region’s drinks sector, and in part is drunk to gain health benefits. The ways in which Muntons has developed her was something Nigel also explained: “In Asia they love the malt flavour, and we band dry our malt extract mixed with milk powder, vitamins and other ingredients, and these are drunk like healthy energy drinks there. The market is so large there that the factory we have in Thailand puts out 7000 tonnes a year of production that amounts to only about one per cent of the market.” Nigel then went on to address the US market: “It is a bit different in America, a main market for us is based around craft brewing, and we are seeing a rise of the craft distiller as well. In the UK there are between 1300 and 1700 craft brewers and we service about 25 per cent of them. Whereas in the US the number that we cover is much higher – we have an extremely good reputation among the craft brewers so they will quite often start with our small 1.6 kilogram cans of malt extract and their production will be small scale, and then they quickly become extremely big. One example that demonstrates our position here, is that at a craft brewers conference in America a few years ago we found that among the thousand or so brewers that were at the event – between two thirds or three quarters of them had started with our products. They like our product, the barley we grow in Europe is different to that grown in the US, it makes beer that tastes different, but it also comes with a strong heritage.”

Practical sustainability
Aside from the product itself, and the markets that it supplies to, another major feature of Muntons that sets it apart from its competitors, is the position it has on sustainability. There are many facets to this, one of which is that Muntons make a sustainable, environmentally friendly, and effective business product – it can help a cake cook quicker, which in turn means that energy will be saved or higher output can be achieved, but it also makes it taste better. This is a small example of a phrase that Nigel coined and that underpins Muntons approach, it is called practical sustainability, which means making changes and improvements that have a lasting and significant impact. Rather than a token gesture, the company is committed to not just talking about how important sustainability is to the business, but rather showing it. Something that has clearly worked, as its developments and attitude has resulted in being invited to give presentations to groups that range from German farmers, to working with the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform, there is an extensive list of groups and events that Muntons has influenced, from small local barley growers, to international companies. It has also resulted in awards, many in fact, such as the 2016 Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association Award and the 2015 Manufacturer Top 100 Award, which are just two of the accolades received.

The way Muntons has gone about practical sustainability is something Nigel provided examples of: “We looked at the top three contributors to our product carbon footprint, as they are always the same three just in varying orders irrespective of the modelling software used and as a result of changes we have made 14 per cent savings over 12 years in our energy use. It also emerged that growing the barley was our biggest carbon factor – so again we practically looked at what could be done, and it was fertilizer that was the key contributor here, and after some changes made by fertilizer producers to abate their emissions by 40 per cent, Muntons now requires its suppliers to use these best in class products which are at no greater cost.” Another way in which Muntons implemented practical sustainability was by building a plant that would take the high sugar waste that couldn’t be put directly into the water treatment facilities at the company. Previously the material had been taken offsite, which cost around three quarters of a million pounds to do. The company therefore installed an anaerobic digestion system plant to turn the waste into methane and then the sludge became a highly nutritive fertilizer. This meant it didn’t need to be transported offsite, and the energy produced by the plant now provides 14 per cent of the facility’s electricity. This demonstrates practical sustainability, taking something that cost money to cause waste into something that cuts down on waste and returns over a million pounds profit.

Therefore Muntons has not only become a beacon of sustainability, it has done so in a way that has financially benefited the business, and Nigel provided some estimates on how much: “Sustainability has won business for us, which will likely account for helping us to win 35 per cent of our business. I would also say that we are also about 12-14 per cent more efficient than we would have been this year due to our sustainability agenda, and that equates to about half a million pounds a year we have avoided spending that can be reinvested in the company.” This incredible achievement by Muntons will not doubt set a precedent that other companies will follow. And with increasingly strong positions in the markets of South East Asia and within the US, Muntons is certainly one to watch for its versatile product, practically sustainable approach, and expanding markets.