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Special edition: Super grains!

Chia and quinoa lead the field - by miles - when it comes to product launches with ancient grains and seeds, says Datamonitor

By Elaine WATSON , 20-Nov-2013
Last updated on 20-Nov-2013 at 17:10 GMT

In the year to date, chia and quinoa accounted for 81.9% of new food launches with ancient grains in the US, says Datamonitor
In the year to date, chia and quinoa accounted for 81.9% of new food launches with ancient grains in the US, says Datamonitor

The percentage of new US food product launches featuring ancient grains or seeds has almost tripled since 2008, according to Datamonitor. But the bulk of activity is focused around just two ingredients: Chia and quinoa.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA as part of our special edition on ‘super grains’, Datamonitor innovation insights director Tom Vierhile said 3.6% of all new US food launches in the year to date (Jan to Oct 31, 2013) featured one of the following ‘ancient’ seeds or grains: Farro, spelt, quinoa, millet, amaranth, kaniwa, chia, kamut, teff and freekeh.

This compares to 2.8% of new launches in 2012, 2.1% of new launches in 2010 and 1.3% of new launches in 2008, he said: “Introductions of so-called ‘ancient grain’ products are definitely on the rise.”

Chia and quinoa have clearly emerged as the major drivers of new product activity of late

However, most of the activity is focused on just two super ancient ingredients, he said: Chia and quinoa (which are both technically seeds rather than grains, but tend to be included under the 'ancient grain' moniker), said Vierhile.

“As for the ancient grains with the most commercial potential, that is becoming more clear as time goes on. Chia and quinoa have clearly emerged as the major drivers of new product activity of late. 

“For the year-to-date to October 31, 2013, chia and quinoa accounted for 81.9% of new food launches with ancient grains in the US. That compares to just 55% of ancient grain launches in 2010.

“The packaged food industry has coalesced behind these two ancient grains to the point that they now account for a dominant percentage of new product activity in the food industry.”

Both of these ancient grains have interesting stories which helps companies market them as ‘premium’ ingredients

Tom Vierhile: For the year-to-date to October 31, 2013, chia and quinoa accounted for 81.9% of new food launches with ancient grains in the US. That compares to just 55% of ancient grain launches in 2010.

He added: “Both of these ancient grains have interesting stories which helps companies market them as “premium” ingredients.  And both products also have health properties that make them attractive additions to packaged food products.”

Chia - a nutritional powerhouse packed with protein, fiber, the short-chain omega-3 fatty acid alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and antioxidants as well as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc - gives products an immediate ‘upscale’ feel, he added.

“I think both quinoa and chia have mainstream appeal, but are upscale and premium. They also appeal to Millennials. Snack bars are the top application areas for many of these grains but we’re seeing them in all kinds of applications from cookies to hot cereals, yogurts, soups, crackers, tortilla-type chips and baked goods.

A technical paper produced by NASA in 1993 observes: "While no single food can supply all the essential life sustaining nutrients, quinoa comes as close as any other in the plant or animal kingdom.”

“They’re also featuring in several babyfoods, which is quite interesting.”

Hain Celestial: Chia is red hot

Speaking at the UBS Global Consumer Conference in March, Hain Celestial USA CEO John Carroll said: “Chia is red hot”, while in May, CEO Irwin Simon said: “Chia seeds, we were buying 10% of the world's supply of chia seeds and still couldn't keep up with demand.”

For more on super grains:

Feeling freekeh? InHarvest chef on which ancient grains to back, and telling a good story

Barley ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’: getting this super grain into the spotlight

10 ancient grains to watch: from kamut to quinoa

Make the most of ancient grains with blends: Bay State Milling

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