Future Looks Bright For Ancient Grains

Health claims are behind the increasing number of global launches of products containing the ancient grains amaranth, buckwheat, chia, kamut, millet, quinoa, sorghum, spelt and teff.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the health benefits of a high fibre-intake diet. As such, the use of ancient grains and whole cereal grains in food has become one of the most important healthy eating movements of recent times.

According to recently released research by Innova Market Insights, ancient grains have demonstrated outstanding, steady growth around the world from 2008 to 2012. What’s more, products containing ancient grains are rapidly gaining popularity across a number of retail categories – not only in bakery and cereals categories, but also in ready-meals, baby foods and confectionary.

Breakfast cereals represented the largest single area of activity, accounting for 7 per cent of product launch introductions, ahead of bread and bread products with 6.3 per cent. Savoury biscuits and crackers products followed with 5 per cent of global launches.

While brands in the US, Germany and the UK continue to launch the highest number of ancient grain products, activity has significantly increased in Asia, East Europe, the Middle East and Latin America and Australia and between 2011 and 2012.

The positive nutritional profile of ancient grains has played a major role in consumer up-take, and the research suggests nearly 75 per cent of all global ancient grains product launches had at least one passive health positioning.

Not surprisingly, the organic positioning is the clear passive health leader for ancient grain product launches, followed by allergy- and gluten-free positionings. Passive health claims ‘natural’, ‘allergy’, ‘gluten-free’, ‘high/source of fibre’, ‘low-sodium’, ‘no trans fats’, ‘organic’, and ‘low-fat’ positionings were reported to have demonstrated particularly notable growth from 2011 to 2012, while active health claims – including ‘Omega-3’ and ‘digestive/gut health’ – were also popular.

In Australia, a teff-based gluten-free bread by Zehnder Gluten Free is gaining popularity for its high-protein, low-carb and low-GI qualities.

Zehnder Gluten Free’s bread can be easily positioned for health conscious and active lifestyles because aside from being gluten-free, the bread also provides all the amino acids and trace elements such as zinc and folate.

Another recently launched product that is confirming this interesting trend in the bread category is the Ozery Bakery One Bun Organic Spelt, which is a pre-sliced organic spelt bun. The product is low-sodium, low-fat and features no articifical preservatives.

As well as being free from saturated and trans fats, the Ozery Bakery One Bun Organic Spelt claims to be a good source of dietary fibre. At the same time, it contains thiamine, niacin, phosphorus and magnesium and is certified organic.

Of the leading international brands, Kraft is leading the way for launch activity and is followed by Windmill Organics.

Once limited to health food stores, ancient grain products are now well and truly mainstream. Their popularity has been facilitated by the global gluten-free trend, where wheat alternatives such as ancient grains have been rediscovered to cater for the allergy-conscious consumer and the general health-conscious consumer.

Future opportunities for ancient grain product development is strong, and despite economic pressures affecting the global food market and consumer spending in recent years, there is clearly a customer base for such products.

No doubt, the baking industry will see more and more consumers become aware of the potential heart and overall health benefits of certain whole grains.

With this in mind, the road ahead looks bright for ancient grains as they become firmly entrenched in the bakery category, as well as being applied in some interesting food and beverage products out of bakery.

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