Malt, an essential natural ingredient

Malt is a natural ingredient made from cereal grains

Malt is a cereal grain that has been transformed naturally

Malt is a cereal grain — usually barley — that has been germinated, then heated, dried, and deculmed. Malt is a natural food product that is the result of a process that uses only water, air, and heat: malting. Malt has biochemical and nutritional properties that make it an essential component of beer and other fermented beverages.

Malt has remarkable biochemical properties

Malt is a cereal grain that has been caused to germinate under ideal heat and humidity conditions so that the grain produces certain enzymes — mainly amylases — that are necessary for the saccharification of starch, and thus for the creation of alcohol during fermentation.

Malt is an essential ingredient

Malt is indispensable to human nutrition.

Malt meets a wide range of needs in the agri-food industry. It is used essentially in brewing as the major component of beer, along with water, hops, and yeast. Malt is also used in distilling, in the production of whisky. It is also used — in the form of malt extracts or flours — in breads, breakfast cereals, energy drinks, and baby food.

Malt is a functional and nutritional ingredient

In addition to the enzymes and starch necessary for fermentation, malt provides organoleptic compounds — colors and flavors — which contribute to enriching the taste and aroma of foods and beverages. High in energy, rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals salts, and fat-free, malt is also appreciated for its nutritional qualities.

There are different varieties of barley and malts suited to a wide range of applications

Cereal grains for malting

Barley is the cereal grain that is most frequently malted for the manufacture of beer and for distilling. But wheat and rye, and also millet and sorghum can also be malted. There are hundreds of varieties of malting barley in the world, selected to suite local climatic and agronomic conditions and brewers’ needs.

In France, winter brewing barley varieties, whose ears have two or six rows of grains, are planted from late September to early October. Spring barley, of which there are more numerous varieties and whose vegetative cycle is shorter, is sowed from late February to early March. In France, the barley harvest usually takes place in July.

Malt for beer and brewers

The brewing industry uses mainly barley malts. Depending on the type of brewing equipment, the types of beer being produced, the taste being sought after, the types of brewing practiced or the types of yeast being used, the characteristics of the most desirable malts will vary. Differences in the malting process produce different types of malts: standard malts — Pilsen, Lager, Ale, Pale Ale, Crystal, Vienne, Munich — and special malts — Caramel, Chocolate, Stout, Black — as well as wheat and rye malts.

Malt for distilling

Barley malt is used by distillers to optimize the alcohol yield of the different cereal grains that go into whiskies and to provide taste and flavor. Distilling uses malts with a high diastatic power to maximize the conversion of starch into sugars, as well as peated malts and roasted malts.

Other food applications of malt

Malt is also used in the form of malt extracts — in liquid or powder form — or malt flours. It is prized for its energetic and nutritional qualities and also for its organoleptic properties — providing flavors, tastes and colors. It is used in numerous food products, in bread and biscuits, pastry, confectionery, breakfast cereals, cereal bars, baby foods, and malted, energy, and alcohol-free beverages.

Malting preserves all the qualities of the grain

Malting is based on a natural phenomenon

Malting is based on a natural phenomenon: germination.

Malt is manufactured on an industrial scale in malting plants. The malt industry relies on an intrinsic property of the cereal grain, which is its ability to germinate. During the development of the sprout, the grain’s metabolism is activated and it produces the enzymes and vitamins that make malt such a unique nutritional and functional ingredient.

Germination develops the qualities of the grain.

Malting consists in causing cereal grains to germinate in order to begin the natural biochemical transformations the plant undergoes during growth, then stopping that transformation more or less rapidly, depending on the desired types of malt and their characteristics. Turning barley (or wheat or rye) into malt takes approximately eight days and is done in four stages.

From barley to malt: the four stages of malting


Steeping, the first stage in the malting process, consists in moistening the grain until its moisture content reaches 45%. Steeping is done via immersion or aspersion, accompanied by oxygenation to allow the grain to breathe. After 30 to 45 hours, the germination of the grain begins: The sprout and the beginnings of the roots — the rootlets — appear.


During this second stage, the grain is spread out and ventilated on “beds” in a warm, humid atmosphere. The sprout continues its development, undergoing biochemical changes which result in the liberation and activation of enzymes. After four to six days, the result is what is called “green malt.”


Kilning is the stage during which the malt is dried by exposing it to hot air to accelerate enzyme production, and then stopping the germination of the grain and the enzymatic activity by lowering the moisture content to 4%. The temperature at the end of kilning varies between 85 and 110° C depending on the type of malt desired, and determines the aroma and color.


During deculming, the dry grain is sifted on vibrating sieves to remove the rootlets. At the end of this stage, the malt is finished, inert, and ready for use. Under proper storage conditions, it can retain all its qualities for nearly a year.

France’s maltsters: Performance and responsibility

Four industrial maltsters and a trade association

These four maltsters, operating in France, are among the five leading groups in the industry. They have conducted a successful strategy of international development, with plants in 36 countries on five continents.

The French malt sector accounts for a total of 30% of the world malt market, making France a major player.

Soufflet Malterie

The malting division of the Soufflet Group has a total production capacity of 2,273,000 tons of malt worldwide, including 809,900 tons in France, and operates 27 malting plants in 12 countries, nine of them in France.


A company of the cooperative group Vivescia, Malteurop has a total production capacity of 2,200,000 tons worldwide, of which 420,000 tons in France, and has 23 malting plants in 13 countries, including four in France.


A subsidiary of the Cargill Group, whose total production capacity is 2,200,000 tons worldwide, with 18 malting plants in 10 countries, Cargill France operates a malting plant in France with a production capacity of 75,000 tons.


A subsidiary of the cooperative group Axéréal, Boortmalt has a total production capacity of 1,100,000 tons of malt in Europe and operates 11 malting plants in eight countries, including one in France (Malteries Franco-Suisses) with a production capacity of 160,000 tons.

Malteurs de France

Since 1916, the French maltsters have been united in a trade association — the Chambre Syndicale de la Malterie Française — whose mission is to defend the interests of the French malting industry, to represent it before the Public Authorities, governmental bodies, and industry groups, to promote the development of the malting industry and of malt — a natural product and an important ingredient for the food industry —, and to develop technical specifications and disseminate best practices within the industry, from barley growing to malting and malt trading.

Malting plants that are competitive worldwide

Modern, efficient industrial facilities

The French malt industry has high-performance, efficient industrial facilities that enable it to be competitive on the world market. 80% of the malt produced in France is exported to more than 110 countries, to major international or regional brewers. The French malt industry has constantly optimized its production costs, including control over the energy needed for the process.

Fifteen production sites in France

The fifteen malting plants located in France have a total production capacity of 1.5 million tons per year.

They are located in Arcis, Brazey-en-Plaine, Nogent, Pithiviers, Polisot, Prouvy, Rouen, Saint Saulve, and Strasbourg, for Soufflet Malterie; in Aire-sur-la-Lys, Metz, Pringy, and Vitry-le-François for Malteurop France; in Issoudun for Boortmalt; and in Strasbourg for Cargill France.

All the French malting plants have excellent locations regarding logistics (waterway, rail, and port infrastructures) for shipping to the major world areas where malt-based products are consumed.

French maltsters also have industrial locations worldwide in 23 countries: Germany, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Spain, the USA, Hungary, Ireland, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Czech Republic, Romania, the UK, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

France’s malt producers take up the challenge of Sustainable Development

Optimizing management of rare resources: water and energy

Where the environment is concerned, a malting plant’s major impacts are on water and energy consumption. That is because the industrial malting process requires water during the steeping and germination phases and energy during the kilning phase.

In their actions in the area of societal and environmental responsibility, French maltsters invest in industrial equipment to reduce water consumption and treat effluents and to optimize energy consumption and recover process energy. Several sites are developing the use of renewable energy using co-generation plants and biomass.

Guaranteeing Food Safety

As a supplier of the food-processing and beverage industries, maltsters are involved in the food safety chain. Upstream of malt manufacturing, the maltsters ensure the hygienic quality of the barley — during growth, during harvesting, and at the time of reception of grain at the malting plant. With the others actors in the industry, France’s maltsters draw up a restrictive list of plant protection products that may be used on malting barley.

During the malting process, the maltsters ensure that Food Safety controls are carried out in accordance with the “Guide to Hygienic Best Practices in Malting” published by Malteurs de France. They also participate in the mycotoxin observatory that has been put in place in conformity with the evaluation protocols of the IFBM in the context of the European trade organization Euromalt.

France’s maltsters: An exceptional industry

France’s production of malting barley

France, the second-ranking malting barley exporter worldwide

Of the approximately 11 million tons of barley harvested in France, malting barley accounts for 4 million tons, or about a third of the annual total. France is the leading European exporter of malting barley and ranks second worldwide.

France is particularly well suited to growing malting barley

In France, the pedoclimatic conditions are especially favorable to growing malting barley — both spring and winter barley. Malting barley is grown in France mainly in the Nord, the Champagne-Ardenne, Eastern France, Burgundy, and the Beauce and Gâtinais, Poitou, Berry and Charentes regions, for a total planted acreage of approximately 1.6 to 1.8 million hectares, with an average yield of 6 to 7 cwt per hectare.

The French malt industry — the leading exporter of malt worldwide

France produces 1.5 million tons of malt yearly

The French malting industry benefits from its immediate proximity to major barley growing areas. It processes 1.8 million tons of malting barley into 1.5 million tons of malt per year in France, in fifteen malting plants.

France exports 80% of its malt production

Since 1967, the French malting industry has been the leading exporter of malt worldwide. France exports 80% of its malt production, or approximately 1.2 million tons per year. France accounts for 30% of malt trading worldwide. The main export markets for French malt production are the European Union and Africa, at close to 30% each, and Asia and South America at South America at some 20% each.

Growers, maltsters and brewers participate together in the barley-malt-beer value chain

The key role of maltsters in the barley-malt-beer value chain

Maltsters occupy a strategic position in the value chain. They are in direct contact with both the growers who grow the malting barley and the brewers who process the malt. The maltsters reconcile the needs of barley producers, who want to optimize their revenues, and brewers, who have specific demands related to production and marketing of beer.

Continuous improvement of malting barley quality

The French malting industry plays a leadership role in the barley-malt-beer value chain along with brewers and grain producers. It invests in research into improving the quality of the agricultural raw materials that impact the quality of the malt, and consequently of the beer of which it is the essential ingredient. It participates in validating new varieties of malting barley.

Malteurs de France and Brasseurs de France co-lead the CBMO (Comité Bière Malt Orge — Beer Malt Barley Committee), a technical reference entity created in 1990 which works toward constant improvement of production by testing and recommending new varieties of barley, of which it publishes an annual list.

Our actions

Inform and lead

Malteurs de France disseminates information on the cereal chains involved in malt manufacturing, memoranda on market events and the current economic picture, specific data concerning cereal raw materials and malt, and information on national and European regulatory matters and market statistics.

With Brasseurs de France, Malteurs de France is co-founder of the Comité Bière Malt Orge (CBMO), which publishes an annual list of new approved varieties of malting barley.

Representing maltsters

Malteurs de France works with:

  1. the French Ministry of Agriculture:
    • the DGPAT (Politiques Agricoles Agro-alimentaires et des Territoires) in the context of the Conseil Spécialisé des Grandes Cultures of FranceAgriMer,
    • the SCEES (Service central des Enquêtes et Études Statistiques) in charge of agricultural statistics, which guarantees the quality of the information collected from growers, companies, organizations, and local governments,
    • the CTPS (Comité Technique Permanent de la Sélection des plantes cultivées) which brings together all partners in the grain varieties and seed chains as well as representatives of consumer and environmental groups. The CTPS issues the opinion used by the Ministry in validating new barley varieties.
  2. the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance, and in particular the DGCCRF (Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes) for developing the “Guide to Hygienic Best Practices in Malting.”

Malteurs de France is represented within the Conseil Spécialisé des Filières Céréalières of FranceAgriMer — the national agriculture and fisheries office — and in collaboration with that entity participates in research programs, in particular connected with a French specialty, six-row winter barley.

Research areas and programs

Each year, the Technical and Research commission of Malteurs de France defines research areas and programs pertaining both to barley (properties, quality, plant health, etc.) and to the malt manufacturing industrial process. Malteurs de France finances this research, conducted at the IFBM (Institut Français de Brasserie et Malterie — French Institute of Brewing and Malting) and at Qualtech, its subsidiary.

Recent research topics include:

  • “Classification of barley according to harvest year and species by using mid infrared spectroscopy and multivariate analysis”,
  • “Impact of barley variety and malting process on wort amino acid profile and content”,
  • “Polyphenols from barley to beer”,
  • “Tool for predicting the risk of gushing on malt, barley and from harvest to come”.

Symposia, seminars and events

Malteurs de France takes part in the major technical and scientific symposia within the barley-malt-beer value chain in France and abroad. Notable among these is the annual malting barley seminar organized by Arvalis, the applied-research entity of Intercéréales.


  • The production charter for malting barley produced by the IRTAC (Institut de Recherches Technologiques Agroalimentaires des Céréales) and ARVALIS (Institut du Végétal)
  • Guide des bonnes pratiques hygiéniques en malterie (Guide to Hygienic Best Practices in Malting)
  • Annual list of preferred varieties by Malteurs de France and Brasseurs de France
  • Annual brochure on the quality of French malting barley in collaboration with the IFBM (Institut français de la Brasserie et de la Malterie)
  • Annual collection of statistics on the barley-malt-beer value chain
  • Malting Barley Technical Specifications (STMF)