Whole grains, whether familiar whole wheat and brown rice or so-called ancient grains, such as quinoa, amaranth and spelt, are becoming a popular way to add health and appeal to everything from bread to breakfast cereal to soup, and can even create some gluten-free products. In fact, 19 percent of American adults have purchased menu or grocery items featuring ancient grains in the past 30 days, according to a new report from Packaged Facts.
According to the “Food Formulation Trends: Ancient Grains and Sprouted Ingredients" report, quinoa still dominates menus and new product announcements but more readily sourced and generally less-expensive ancient grains, such as sorghum and barley, are increasingly becoming the workhorses behind “ancient grain" labels, in products typically based on conventional oats, corn or rice. There’s also a strong association between ancient grains and whole grains and the use of gluten-free ancient-grain ingredients and gluten-free, non-GMO and vegan retail product claims.
Sharing the limelight with ancient grains for consumer attention are sprouted grains, seeds and nuts, promising ease of digestibility and enhanced nutritional value in terms of protein, amino acids and micronutrients. Sprouted seeds and nuts offer the advantage of being gluten-free; however, much of the current interest in sprouting is related to both modern and ancient wheat varieties, with improved digestibility the primary focus.
For wheat growers and processors, consumer interest in sprouted wheat could help bolster sagging retail demand for wheat products shunned by the growing number of non-celiac consumers avoiding gluten or carbohydrates altogether.
A review of packaged food products and categories that feature ancient grains positioning or market products containing ancient grain ingredients found the are becoming popular because they provide growing breakfast and snacking opportunities; are a good source of plant protein; are a clean-label ingredient; and support whole-grain and gluten-free claims.
While many of the more recent ancient grain product launches continue to be in categories traditionally associated with grain ingredients, such as cereal, bread, bars and baking mixes, others include salty snacks, entrée salads, side dishes, boxed dinner mixes, frozen meat alternatives and yogurt. In addition to innovating with ancient grains by extending their use across categories, the form of ancient grain ingredients also is benefitting from innovation to provide enhanced nutritional, flavor and textural characteristics, to facilitate incorporation into more finished product forms and to promote extended shelf life.
Check out the “Whole and Ancient Grains: From Amaranth to Zizania" Image Gallery to learn more about what makes these grains special, including their nutritional value.