Nigel Larsen

Life Membership Award Baking Industry Research Trust

Prior to commencing his career with the DSIR in 1983, Nigel completed a PhD in chemistry, and post-doctoral research in non-food science fields. Nigel then moved to the Wheat Research Institute where he was able to apply his chemistry knowledge and background to food which led to him becoming a cereal and wheat-based food scientist.

Nigel’s association with Baking Industry Research Trust (BIRT) began in the mid 1980’s when he became involved in presenting his research to Wheat Research Committee meetings which comprised of people from the farming, milling and baking industries, and DSIR. Through this association Nigel met John Gould who was a strong influence in the development of his future research interests in the baking industry. During this time Nigel led research of importance to millers and arable farmers.

Over the years Nigel has been involved in a range of research activities and is proud to have had a strong influence in developing research into MDD mixing processes, the measurement of dough properties and oxidation processes in MDD doughs. This was especially important after the industry had to discontinue the use of bromate because of concerns that it might be harmful.

Nigel also completed research into the influence of lipids and was able to prove that findings from North American studies did not apply to New Zealand wheats. Nigel was the ‘the face of NZ Cereal Science’ in the Quality Wheat Cooperative Research Centre through his roles as Crop & Food Research’s Science leader for 7 years, and leading the CRC Team for CFR for 2 years in Sydney.

Nigel found working with industry people and earning their trust, and conducting research with extremely talented people like Arran Wilson, Dale Every, Kevin Sutton and Marco Morgenstern the most rewarding aspect of his career. The research started on the effects of NZ wheats and wheat processing in coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity, was very rewarding as the outcomes look to be countering much of the speculation we hear in social media forums.

The biggest changes Nigel noted were the development of higher quality wheat cultivars that enabled the industry to hugely improve product quality after the abolition of the Wheat Board, and the switch from reliance on bromate as an oxidative improver, to air (e.g. delayed vacuum mixing) and enzyme-based oxidation. Another major change was the significant decrease in the number of bakeries producing breads for big companies.

 Nigel feels honoured to have worked with the NZ baking industry for 30 years and to have been so closely involved in developing industry-relevant research programmes.