Success with a healthier cake

After a year's development work, it's ready. The new "healthy" muffin from Millba. Nofima Mat was at the factory for the first test production run.

Rich in fibre with less sugar and fat and more fruit and nuts. That’s the recipe for the new, healthier muffins that are coming onto the market this winter. But making a healthier option that works well on the production line and also tastes good is not easy. Those who have been putting in all the work to achieve this have been muffin manufacturer Millba in Skien and master baker Hans Helge Raae Olsen and the team at Nofima Mat in Ås.

Freshly baked

The Bran Muffin from Millba started out as an idea for a healthier muffin about a year ago. This muffin was inspired by a variety from England with wheat bran. "We’ve put so much work into this recipe that we know we have a good product. But scaling up for production is always difficult so some adjustments were needed in any case," says Millba’s project manager Stefan Kristiansen. The muffin also presents some distribution problems.
"Water activity is high, so the raw materials can easily become soft. It’s shelf life isn’t as long as our other products," explains the project manager.

Healthier

"This muffin contains a lot of fibre, which is unusual in cakes. It has less fat and sugar and it has healthy ingredients like oats, pine nuts, apples and raisins. It tastes whole-grained and a bit spicy – really good," says master baker and pâtissier Hans Helge Raae Olsen of Nofima Mat. He thinks working with Millba is fun.
"Being here is like a dream. An industry dream. Everything is so well-ordered – including the people who work here. And Stefan really knows what he’s doing!"

Already sold

The time has come for the recipe’s first factory run. There’s a long time to wait before the first cakes can be picked off the conveyor belt as they come out of the oven. Experienced fingers break the cakes open and check the consistency. They are smelled and tasted. Bit more baking? Not so much apple? Bit longer mixing time? The professionals have gone into a huddle. Then they rush off to mix the next batch. "But you can’t just base the recipe on how the cakes taste when they have just come out of the oven. Everything tastes good when it’s freshly baked," insists Stefan Kristiansen.

All today’s batches are going straight to the freezer and will be assessed again after a week. The results had better be good, because there is no way back. "The market has been demanding this product for a long time and we have already sold it to the supermarkets," says Kristiansen.

Seeing the whole picture

Millba is constantly introducing new products, or improving existing ones. The employees do most of the work themselves, under the guidance of the project manager. But when they need to delve deeper into the mysteries of cakes they call Hans Helge Raae Olsen. "When we wonder about something we give Hans Helge a call. He can’t always give us the answer right away, but he always finds out! Sometimes he rings back the following week and says ‘Hi, I’ve been thinking about that and….’. Hans Helge is baker, pâtissier and marketing man all rolled into one. He sees the whole picture," says Kristiansen. "When you’ve been in the business for so many years, it’s no wonder you have plenty to pass on. And think about the number of companies he has been in."

Like hot cakes

Millba’s story began in Skien in 1999. They bake up to 150,000 muffins a day there, as well as doughnuts and buns. In summer 2008 they also opened a bakery in Porsgrunn, baking premium breads and hot dog rolls. Millba has seen sales increase ever since they started. By winter 2008 growth was 50%. Millba is now probably northern Europe’s most modern bakery of American style cakes.
Millba has worked with Nofima Mat on several development projects and they have participated in three different product development networks since the beginning.

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