Kamut for the masses!

By Maggie Hennessy

- Last updated on GMT

Kamut International CEO Trevor Blyth on Kashi's Cocoa Coconut Kamut Wheat Granola joining Target's exclusive Made To Matter collection: "This is a product that is definitely going more into the mainstream with organic and ancient grain products. I think it’s a great step in right direction." Photo courtesy of Kashi.
Kamut International CEO Trevor Blyth on Kashi's Cocoa Coconut Kamut Wheat Granola joining Target's exclusive Made To Matter collection: "This is a product that is definitely going more into the mainstream with organic and ancient grain products. I think it’s a great step in right direction." Photo courtesy of Kashi.

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When the nation’s largest cereal manufacturers and mass merchants say they want to use your ancient wheat as a primary ingredient in a granola line as part of a “better for you” brand collection, you say yes. Even if it’s on very short notice.

Such was the case for ancient grain supplier Kamut International, whose trademark-owned khorasan wheat was selected for inclusion in Kellogg Co.’s Kashi Cocoa Coconut with Kamut Wheat Granola to be sold exclusively at Target as part of its “Made To Matter—Handpicked by Target” collection.

This is Kamut International’s first contract with Kellogg, though the supplier has talked with Kashi brand representatives before about possible inclusion in one of its products.

“We weren’t contacted ahead of time (about Made To Matter); it was right before the rollout,”​ Kamut International CEO Trevor Blyth told FoodNavigator-USA. “But they had done their homework. For us, it just came down to making sure the product came from a genuine source and use of the trademark was correct.”

‘A great step in the right direction’

Target’s 120-SKU Made to Matter line—which rolled out to all 1,754 stores in September—aims to make “better for you” products more accessible. It features natural, organic and sustainable products from 17 of the biggest brands in the space, including Chobani, EVOL, Annie’s Homegrown and Vita Coco.

The line holds significant sales potential for Target. Natural, organic and sustainable products are growing at a 15% to 20% clip at the chain, outpacing the 10% industry average, as Kathy Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising and supply chain, said during a preview meeting for the collection in April 2014. Not only that, but 97% of Target shoppers already buy at least some organic, natural or sustainable products, she added.

Kellogg told our sister site BakeryandSnacks.com​ that is going to await consumer feedback on the granola before deciding whether to use Kamut in additional products.

For Kamut International, the granola is an accessible avenue for consumers to incorporate more organic and ancient grain products into their diets, Blyth said. Each 11-ounce bag of the USDA organic-certified, Non-GMO Project-verified Kashi granola retails for $4.99 and is versatile enough to be eaten for breakfast or as an “afternoon pick-me-up,”​ he noted.

This is a product that is definitely going more into the mainstream with organic and ancient grain products,”​ he said. “I think it’s a great step in right direction. It makes organic and ancient grains much more approachable to people who haven’t tried before. That can lead to trying other things and broadening horizons in alternative wheat categories.”

Consumers are looking toward ancient practices, ingredients

Kamut khorasan wheat is an ancient varietal that’s believed to have originated in Egypt. It hasn’t been modified using modern agricultural practices, meaning it’s non-GMO and grown using organic methods.

“Basically what we’re doing with the Kamut trademark is preserving it the way it has always been, which is not the tendency in modern agriculture today,” ​Blyth said. “The tendency is to select for higher yield or more efficient production. But I think what we’re starting to see is focusing on those types of attributes in selecting our wheat varieties, people are having reactions to what we’re getting as a result. And that’s why people are turning more toward ancient practices.”

Khorasan wheat has higher protein and mineral—especially selenium, magnesium and zinc—levels than modern wheat. It is also naturally sweeter, enabling bakers and manufacturers to scale back on sweeteners used in their formulas.

Some clinical research has also found that consumers suffering from wheat sensitivities may exhibit fewer symptoms when they eat Kamut khorasan wheat when compared to modern wheat. (See here​.)

Despite the sheer scale of Target, supply isn’t a concern for Kamut, which has access to a “healthy reserve” of the ancient wheat, Blyth noted. Although the grain is one of the more expensive wheat varieties, khorasan wheat is less susceptible to price swings of commodity wheats such as spelt and durum, so the pricing remains more stable, he added.

“This year there are some shortages of durum and spelt, so those prices are going to go up quite a bit,” ​he said. “We pay our farmers a good price and make sure we have enough supply and then some, so we’re more stable in terms of pricing.

“We promote organic agriculture, so that means more organic acres. My uncle (Kamut International founder Bob Quinn) was and is an organic farmer, so that’s where this all came from.”

Indeed, with Edelman’s 2012 GoodPurpose survey of 8,000 global consumers finding that 87% think businesses should be as committed to social issues (from fair trade to empowering women) as they are to their business interests, more consumers than ever are likely to care about brand stories like Kamut’s…and vote with their dollars.

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