Nutritionists world wide recommend an increased consumption of whole grain products and dietary fibre. Rye is an excellent raw material for healthy and tasty foods and it has a high fibre content.

Rye bread has in the past been the most important source of energy, protein, and carbohydrate in the diet of Finnish and German farmers. As wheat, fat and sugar became readily available, the consumption of rye declined considerably. Now that consumers are increasingly interested in health, balanced diets, variation, and ethnic tastes of food, rye has the potential to gain interest and popularity. In particular, educated women have adopted rye as part of their regular diet (Prättälä et al. 2001). This may be a symptom of changing eating habits; the consumers are more often seeking healthy and tasty new foods. In addition, the cereal industry has responded to the growing demand, and the number of new rye products is increasing.

Rye bread

A wide variety of different types of rye breads are available in the Nordic countries and the field is growing. The traditional whole grain sourdough rye bread and rye crisp bread have gained new dimensions due to active research and product development in bakeries. Attention has been paid to health aspects, like low sodium content and high amounts of dietary fibre. In addition, new types of user-friendly breads have been developed.

The flavour and the structure of rye bread are quite different from those of wheat bread, and they vary depending on flour type, other ingredients, the process, baking conditions and time, as well as the size and shape of the bread.

The most typical rye bread in Finland, Denmark, Russia, and the Baltic countries is whole grain rye bread made using a sourdough method. In this method the main ingredients, whole grain rye flour, water and starter culture are mixed and fermented for about 8-18 hours. During the fermentation period the lactic acid bacteria and the sourdough yeast grow, and due to the microbial activity and the enzymatic reactions of the microflora, flavour compounds are formed. The main components formed are lactic acid and acetic acid. After fermentation more flour, water, and other ingredients are mixed to the sourdough to make the dough. The dough is left to rise for a short period, after which the breads are shaped, left to rise again and baked.

Today, in Finland, a wide variety of different types of whole grain sourdough breads are available. Small rye breads torn in half and used as a bun have gained popularity. Breads baked slowly at low temperature have a thick tasty crust, and they are available in different varieties, low-sodium or normal sodium, and made of organic rye. A number of pre-sliced rye loaves are also available with different textures and acidity profiles. The popularity of rye bread with whole grain kernels is increasing rapidly.

Taste is the most important quality criteria when food selections are made. The identity of rye bread is closely related to the bread's acidity and the whole meal rye flour content of the bread. Several studies have shown that acidity enhances perceived saltiness in rye bread. Thus it is possible to reduce sodium chloride levels in sour rye breads.

Rye bread in Sweden is consumed as traditional whole grain rye bread and as the popular loaf bread. One-third of bread consumption in Sweden involves the loaf bread type with about 40% rye flour at an extraction rate of about 80%. This type of bread has a long tradition. During the last five years new types of loaf breads with increased fibre content and whole rye kernels have been developed. These types of breads have been well accepted by consumers.

Another popular type of rye bread is crisp bread, originating from Sweden, which is eaten throughout the world. It has its greatest popularity in the Nordic countries. The annual consumption of crisp bread in Sweden is 4.5 kg per person, in Finland 2.5 kg and in Norway 2.0 kg. The basic ingredients in most of the crisp bread variants are the same as in most rye breads: whole grain rye flour, water, yeast and salt.

There are three different types of rye crisp bread: normal yeast fermented, sourdough fermented and cold bread crisp bread. Most of the crisp bread produced in Scandinavia is produced following 3-4 hours of fermentation. Sourdough versions are used in Finland and Germany. The third type of crisp bread is the so-called cold bread crisp bread, which is baked without the addition of yeast. The dough gets the right texture from a foaming process, where air is incorporated into the cooled dough, which also leads to the almost white colour of the finished bread. Crisp bread has a long shelf life due to its very low water content (5-7%).

Rye Milling Products

The variety of rye cereal products is growing. In addition to the traditional use of different types of rye flour, various types of rye flakes, breakfast cereals, etc. are also available.

Whole grain rye is the most popular flour type for baking rye bread, especially in Finland. Rye flour with an extraction rate of about 80% is also widely used.

Different types of rye groats and flakes are available for baking, cooking porridges and for breakfast cereals. These products are generally made of whole grain rye. In the Nordic countries, several new types of rye products have been developed. Breakfast cereals containing rye have gained popularity. Different types of breakfast cereals are available with rye contents of up to 55%. The rye in these products is flaked and precooked, and sometimes even extruded to increase crispiness and taste.

Other Traditional Rye Products

In the Nordic countries rye has been a widely used raw material for many other traditional foodstuffs besides bread.

In addition to bread and breakfast cereals, rye has always been consumed in variety of ways, in regions where it is popular.

Rye porridge is traditionally made of rye flour, but nowadays rye flakes are also available for a good and tasty porridge. A typical Finnish breakfast dish or dessert is rye-lingonberry or rye-blueberry porridge. Traditional baked rye berry pies still appeal to today's consumer.

Edible coatings are part of modern food technology, but they were already in use long ago in Eastern Finland, where fish, vegetables, and meat were baked inside a rye shell in order to make a shelf-stable product with a delicious edible coating.

A traditional Finnish pastry (Karelian pastry) is made with a very thin coating containing rye and wheat flour. The filling is made of cooked mashed potatoes, rice or barley pudding. Karelian pastries have always been popular in Finland, but during the last few decades, new technology in their production has made them more easily available. Today Karelian pastries could be called "Finnish pizza", a traditional convenience food.

"Mämmi", the Finnish Easter pudding, is made of rye malt, rye flour, and water that are allowed to sweeten naturally and are then baked in the oven for several hours. The roots of this cereal-based dish go back hundreds of years in time, but it is still a common Easter dish, although nowadays enjoyed most often with cream and sugar.

Novel Rye Products

The possibilities for developing and producing new tasty and healthy rye products are limitless. Rye is an excellent raw material for new types of functional foods. The Nordic cereal industry is enthusiastically taking advantage of the results of rye research and new technologies, and developing novel rye products for the market.

Increased consumer awareness and interest in the health-improving effects of foods have induced the Nordic cereal industry to research the benefits of whole meal rye products and improved processing. Rye is an excellent raw material for a variety of products; it may even be utilized as a major ingredient in many functional foods.

Rye bread mix with sourdough is an interesting new innovation, which makes baking traditional rye bread easier both at home and in catering kitchens. Rye bread mix contains sourdough in a dried form, and sourdough rye bread can be baked in a couple of hours, thus omitting the long fermentation of traditional sourdough.

Interesting rye novelties are pasta products that contain both wheat and rye. In addition, a mixture of rice and steel-cut rye is available to be served as a side dish, or used as an ingredient in casseroles and salads. Rye adds colour and taste in a similar way to wild rice. In Finland, two fast-food chains offer hamburger buns made of a wheat and rye flour mixture, "rye burgers".

Bakeries have developed new breads and buns that contain, in addition to whole grain flour, crushed rye grains and groats. The amount of added salt may be reduced, because the sourdough acids increase the perceived intensity of saltiness (Heiniö et al. 1997). Taste continues to be the number one priority when food selections are made (Clydesdale 1994). Also, the interest in ethnic recipes is increasing. Both of these trends provide opportunities for the development of new and revised rye products.

Karelian pastries are now available deep frozen, and oven-ready, which makes their use at home and at catering kitchens easy and popular. Prebaked rye bread is also available to be used in bake-off facilities.

Cereal-based snack products are a growing business area. Rye could be utilized to add flavour and taste in this area as well. Crispbread sandwiches with tasty fillings are already available, and a demand for these types of products is clearly emerging.

Today's busy consumers utilize more and more ready-to-eat -products. Home meal replacement is a major trend in the United States supermarket industry, and it is also emerging in Europe. Supermarkets try to find new ways to attract customers to buy value-added products from supermarkets instead of buying take-out-meals from restaurants. To meet this demand, rye processors could find new solutions by developing ready-to-eat rye sandwiches, puddings, salads with rice-rye, etc.

Weight Watchers® in Finland have "freed" whole meal rye bread in their diet. This means that a person following a Weight Watchers' diet in order to lose weight is allowed to eat rye bread during breakfast, lunch and dinner as an extra dish, which does not count in the basic diet. This is a very interesting new utilization of rye bread, and it will no doubt change attitudes towards rye bread in the diets of those watching their weight.

Rye-based Consumer Products

Milling Products
  • Whole grain rye
  • Steel cut rye
  • Crushed rye grains
  • Malted and crushed rye grains
  • Precooked rye kernels
  • Malted rye kernels
  • Whole grain rye flour
  • Sifted rye flour
    (variations in ash content)
  • Rye bran
  • Rye flakes
  • 4-grain flakes with rye
  • Toasted rye flakes
  • Breakfast cereals (muesli, others)
  • Sourdough rye bread mix
Bread Products
  • Rye bread
  • Crispbread
  • Thin crispbread
  • Rye rolls and buns
  • Rolls, buns and breads containing wheat/rye-mixture
  • Parbaked rye products
Other Rye Products
  • Rye porridge
  • Berry pastries
  • Karelian pastries
  • "Kalakukko" - rye-dough-covered baked
    dish containing fish,
    meat and/or vegetables
  • "Mämmi" - Finnish Easter pudding
  • Rye pasta
  • Rice-rye-mixture
  • Snack products
  • Crispbread sandwich
  • Rye Hamburger

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