Ancient grains a hit in modern world

Innova Market Insights
Thursday, 09 January, 2014

You’d have to have been living under a rock for the last year to not have heard of quinoa, the new staple for hippies, hipsters and the health-conscious the world over. Launches of quinoa-containing products rose nearly 50% in the 12 months to September 2013, Innova Market Insights has reported, and have risen more than fivefold over a five-year period.

Quinoa’s lesser-known brethren - chia, buckwheat, hemp and amaranth - have also risen strongly in recent years, but are yet to experience the same popularity that quinoa has achieved.

“Ancient grains were once very popular basic food cereals, but faded away and became largely obsolete in many countries with the rise of modern cereal crops, such as wheat and corn,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights.

“Interest in these alternative grain products perceived as traditional, natural and nutritious has become increasingly apparent and their use is extending out of the specialist health foods sector and into the mainstream, as well as out of cereal products and into the wider processed foods market.”

While rising interest in the US has largely been responsible for the growth of quinoa, launches are now becoming increasingly common in Europe, according to Innova. It is particularly popular in gluten-free products, with 38% of launches featuring quinoa using a gluten-free positioning in the 12 months to September 2013.

Quinoa is also increasingly being used in baby foods, with launches including Plum Organics Mighty 4 Essential Nutrient Blends in the US, Biobim Mixed Vegetables with Quinoa organic jarred baby meals in the UK and Babybio cereals featuring quinoa in France.

Other ancient grains are also getting a look-in, with Innova reporting launches of soft drinks such as Ahhmigo’s Chia and Water with chia fibre, omega-3 and protein, which claims to keep consumers “hydrated and satiated”; snacks such as Lesser Evil Chia Crisps; and cereals such as Nature’s Path Organic Qi’a ‘superfood’ cereal made with a blend of chia, hemp and buckwheat.

One sure sign of ancient grains’ success in the modern marketplace, Innova says, is their inclusion in mainstream, non-specialist products, such as the recently launched Special K Nourish multigrain cereals and cereal bars from Kellogg’s, which contain quinoa, oats, barley and wheat.

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