Ancient grains, pulses and superseeds are the superfoods of the moment.

NEW YORK — Superfoods are surging in popularity as consumers crave more nutrient-dense products, according to new research from Mintel. The amount of new food and beverage products containing the terms “superfood,” “superfruit” or “supergrain” skyrocketed 202% globally between 2011 and 2015. In 2015 alone, the category rose 36%, with the United States claiming the top spot for most “super” product launches.

Stephanie Mattucci, Mintel
Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst at Mintel

“The popularity of “super” products is clear as food and drink manufacturers globally are tapping into demand for these nutritionally dense ingredients,” said Stephanie Mattucci, global food science analyst at Mintel. “Today’s consumers are becoming much more aware of what they are putting into their bodies.”

Ancient grains gaining appeal

The wheat-free diet trend has driven growth in the amount of products containing “supergrains” ancient grains, Mintel said. Chia is leading the charge, as the per cent of products in which the ingredient was featured grew 70% between 2014 and 2015. During the same period, products containing teff grew 31% and those containing quinoa rose 27%.

Products featuring ancient grains and supergrains
Products featuring ancient grains "supergrains" are growing in popularity.

“Desire for healthier, less refined alternatives to wheat has fueled the rediscovery of ancient grains,” Ms. Mattucci said. “Flavorful and nutrient-dense ancient grains have begun to change the negative perception of some carbohydrates by leveraging their nutritional profile and rich heritage. Ancient grains offer an alternative to wheat but also come bundled with functional and nutritional components, and provide new flavors and textures. They are a great way for free-from products to talk about health.”

The healthy perception of ancient grains has played a key role in the supergrains surge. Thirty per cent of consumers in the U.K. said that pasta made with ancient grains like quinoa is healthier than regular pasta.

Products featuring pulses, superfoods
Pulses are popping up in several new superfood offerings.

Pulses pick up speed

The popularity of pulses as a superfood are on the rise, too. Over the past two years, Mintel said, the percentage of products launched containing green split pea jumped 126%, while those containing coral lentils grew 62% and products featuring yellow split peas increased 21%.

“Pulses can be used to add a range of natural health benefits to food and drink products,” Ms. Mattucci said. “Additionally, healthy pulses are staples in many ethnic cuisines, offering manufacturers a pathway for product innovation for convenience-seeking ethnic food explorers.”

Products featuring superseeds, superfoods
Superseeds like chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are making a splash in the market as well.

Superseeds see super growth

Superseeds also are sprouting up more often in new product launches. Over the past two years, the percentage of food and beverages containing chia seeds increased 70%, according to Mintel. Products featuring pumpkin seeds grew 27% and those containing sunflower seeds spiked 22%.

“Some seeds, including chia and pumpkin seeds, offer complete protein, with all nine essential amino acids in the correct ratios,” Ms. Mattucci said. “However, a lot of protein from seeds is incomplete. Blending seeds can help improve the quality of protein.”

Sprouted ancient grains may be one of the next big superfoods.

Rising stars in superfoods

Going forward, sprouted ancient grains, turmeric and moringa are the superfoods to watch, Ms. Mattucci said.

“Whilst the number of products containing ancient grains has been rising, next we could see the popularity of sprouting ancient grains,” she said. “The ancient, accidental process of sprouting, where whole grains are soaked and left to germinate has largely been eliminated by modern processing techniques. There has been a return to this ancient practice, with controlled ‘sprouting’ practices being introduced, as the nutritive advantage of sprouted grains is being recognized. The ancient grain quinoa is leading the comeback of sprouted grains.”

Products featuring turmeric and moringa, superfoods
Turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and moringa is said to have beauty and anti-aging properties.

Turmeric and moringa also may be on the rise, Ms. Mattucci said, as turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory benefits and moringa is said to have beauty and anti-aging properties.

“Turmeric has potential as an ingredient in supplements and functional food and drink products, particularly within products aimed at the growing senior population,” she said. “Additionally, moringa could be used in anti-aging beauty food products. Whilst currently the ingredient is used in many beauty launches, the leaves are nutritional powerhouses.”