New data unearths hearty insights on the
surging interest in grains, suggesting they
warrant a pronounced spot on shelves.
By Kathleen Furore
f you’re not sure whether grain-based products should hold a prominent spot on your
center store shelves, recent data should quell
Consumer Reports called grain bowls “the ultimate
healthy comfort food” in August, following 2016 being
proclaimed as The International Year of Pulses (think lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, fava beans and
black-eyed peas) by the United States General Assembly.
Sales of alternative-ingredient snacks including pulses,
alternative vegetables and grains are forecast to hit the
$1.2 billion mark in 2017, according to Snack Food Nutrition Trends: Pulses, Vegetables, and Grains in Salty
Snacks and Crackers, a new report from Packaged Facts.
In the same vein, ancient grains, whole-grain products for kids, and protein-rich grains and seeds made
the National Restaurant Association’s list of Top Food
Trends for 2017.
All this leaves little doubt that consumers are clearly
embracing grains. Accordingly, savvy manufacturers are
answering consumers’ call for healthier foods they can
consume as main meals, side dishes and snacks.
“We’ve definitely seen a growing interest in whole
grains, and especially pigmented grains beyond brown,
which are black and red in color,” reports Caryl Levine,
co-founder and co-CEO of Lotus Foods, a company that
offers Forbidden Rice, Red Rice, Brown Jasmine and Millet and Brown Rice Ramen Noodles and Pad Thai Noodles—all certified organic and made with whole grains.
“I think people are realizing that whole grains are an easy
way to improve your diet just by swapping out a processed
grain or noodle for something healthier.”
Nutritional Benefits Driving the Trend
The presence of grains in consumers’ diet is nothing new.
Whole grains—and some seeds widely considered grain
and called pseudo-grains—have been a core component
of human sustenance for ages, according to insights from
Eden Foods, a purveyor of whole-grain popcorn, quinoa,
buckwheat, millet and muesli, plus a variety of beans.
Quinoa, for example, was originally cultivated 1,000
years ago by ancient Incas in the Bolivian Altiplano region
of the Andes Mountains, where it was known as a “mother
grain,” says Edouard Rollet, co-CEO and co-founder of
Alter Eco, the company that introduced its Heirloom Quinoa to the United States in 2005.
“Back then, there was barely any quinoa in the marketplace and most people could not pronounce the name,”
What’s changed is the recognition of grains as an
important part of a balanced diet. After years in the
culinary wilderness, grains are top of mind for today’s
health-conscious consumers, thanks in part to the USDA’s
recommendation that consumers eat at least three servings of whole grain per day.
“[Quinoa] has become a household staple over the past
few years because it’s a nutrient powerhouse and incredibly easy to cook with, from topping on salads to using
as a rice replacement,” Rollet says, noting that Alter Eco
now offers Rainbow Heirloom Quinoa, Pearl Heirloom
Quinoa, Black Heirloom Quinoa and Red Heirloom Quinoa—four varieties of a product few people recognized a
Kamut Khorasan wheat (a protein-packed ancient form
of wheat with a rich, buttery flavor), sorghum and teff
(the world’s tiniest grain) are other ancient grains gaining a following with health-conscious shoppers, says
Bob Goldstein, president of Hodgson Mill, a company
that offers seasoned Quinoa, Pearled Sorghum, Teff and
Kamut Khorasan Wheat side dishes that cook in just 15 to
20 minutes on the stove.
Amount of consumers
who consider grains
to be healthful.*
3 Center Store