Use of ancient grains is extending beyond traditional grain-based food products into new categories.

ROCKVILLE, MD. – The increased availability of food and beverage products featuring ancient grains as ingredients has heightened consumer interest in the ingredients, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts. During the past year, 19% of U.S. consumers said they have purchased menu or retail items with ancient grains, and Packaged Facts predicts the trend may continue as the ingredients fit with several consumer trends.

While many of the more recent ancient grain product launches continue to be in categories traditionally associated with grain ingredients, for example, cereals, breads, bars and baking mixes, other product launches include salty snacks, entrée salads, side dishes, boxed dinner mixes, frozen meat alternatives and yogurt, said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. In addition to innovating with ancient grains by extending the ingredients’ use across categories, the form of ancient grain ingredients also is benefiting from innovation to provide enhanced nutritional, flavor and textural characteristics, to facilitate incorporation into more finished product forms, and to promote stability for extended shelf life and enjoyment.

In its report “Food formulation trends: Ancient grains and sprouted ingredients,” Packaged Facts identified four key trends driving interest, including the rate of interest in breakfast and snacking options; ancient grains being a good source of protein; the ingredients supporting the development of product formulations perceived as clean by consumers; and the role ancient grains play in the development of whole grain and gluten-free foods.

Quinoa still dominates menus.

Quinoa still dominates menus and new product announcements, but more ubiquitous wheat, oats and corn and less familiar ancient grains are increasingly likely to be the workhorses in ancient grain formulations, according to Packaged Facts. Chef interest in ancient and heirloom grains has been described as a natural progression in the context of local, sustainable and authentic foods. Packaged Facts said for a growing number of chefs at high-end restaurants, starchy side dishes made with commodity flour are not compatible with meals prepared with heritage meats and heirloom vegetables.