Ancient grains play an important role in many of today's leading food trends, including whole grains, gluten-free, non-GMO, high-fiber, high-protein and vegan diets.
For some consumers, the attraction of ancient grains is the increased likelihood they will be organic, produced without genetic modification, and offer considerable nutritional value. Interest in sprouted grains and other sprouted ingredients is growing as more consumers pay attention to digestive health and a desire for greater nutritional value in general and in conjunction with raw foods.
Market research firm Packaged Facts reported in Food Formulation Trends: Ancient Grains and Sprouted Ingredients that 19 percent of American adults has purchased menu or grocery items featuring ancient grains in the past 30 days, the same percentage who purchased sprouted grains/ingredients. Consumers purchase more ancient grains and sprouted grains/ingredients at grocery stores than they order from menus at restaurants, research found.
Ancient grains have become more widely available at mainstream and natural food retailers, and are found in a growing number of food and beverage products and categories. Some grains and flours made from them are marketed alongside standard flour, corn meal and other flours on the baking aisle. They can also be found in the rice aisle, packaged for side dishes and recipes.
Quinoa still dominates menus and new-product announcements, but wheat, oats and corn and less familiar ancient grains are increasingly likely to be the workhorses in ancient grain formulations. Chefs' interest in ancient and heirloom grains has been described as a natural progression from the growing interest in local, sustainable and authentic foods. For a growing number of chefs at high-end restaurants, starchy side dishes made with commodity flour are not compatible with meals carefully prepared with heritage meats and heirloom vegetables.
Based on Packaged Facts' review of packaged food products and categories that feature ancient grains, the reasons for incorporating them include being a good source of plant protein, presenting cleaner ingredient labels, and supporting whole-grain and gluten-free claims.
While many recent ancient-grain products fall 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, said Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle.