What’s the next niche to be filled? It may well be “healing spices” and other ancient food ingredients, according to the Center for Culinary Development (CCD), San Francisco, CA, in its most recent “Culinary Trend Mapping Report,” issued in December. Consumers are engaged in trying out new foods and diets in hopes of curing what ails them, the report stated. Such curative foods have roots in ancient times.

CCD maps culinary trends, rating them with its trademarked Trend Map tool by where they are on their way to mainstream acceptance. In this ranking system, Stage No. 1 represents foods just now appearing in upscale, ethnic and independent restaurants, while Stage No. 5 characterizes those closest to broad penetration and seen on popular grocery store shelves and in fast food and quick service restaurants.

“Our current report focuses on wellness trends that tap into ancient wisdom, which is getting new life among consumers,” explained Kara Nielsen, CCD trendologist.

The report identified docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an omega-3 fatty acid touted with brain health claims and to be at Stage No. 5. Agave nectar, considered a natural, healthful, plant-based sweetener suitable for bakery use is noted as well into the Stage No. 3 ranking (seen in mainstream chain restaurants and smaller grocers). Hemp, fermented foods and sprouted foods are in Stage No. 2 (featured in some specialty stores and magazines). Many of these involve ancient grains and traditional Asian foods that consumers view as less processed and more nutrient-rich. Healing spices such as holy basil (native to India and used in Hindu religious tradition) and tumeric are at Stage No. 1, just now being incorporated in energy bars and teas.

“Sprouted grains and healing spices are particularly relevant for baked goods,” Ms. Nielsen said. Additionally, hemp seeds, not used much in US products but present in some Canadian items, have an optimum balance between omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, “even better than flax,” she observed.

CCD prepares these reports in conjunction with Packaged Facts, a market research publisher based at Rockville, MD.


In gluten-free pan breads, corn protein (also called zein) offers the possibility of a more wheat-like dough but without wheat’s gluten, according to research done at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service by chemists Scott Bean, PhD, and Tilman Schober, PhD, of the Grain Quality and Structure Research Unit at Manhattan, KS. Breads made with zein had flatter shapes than wheat-based doughs, and dough strength was lacking. Those limitations changed when they used defatted zein.

“We found that removing more of the fat from the [corn] protein’s surface allows the proteins to stick to each other much like wheat proteins do — leading to the elastic nature of wheat dough,” Dr. Bean said. He also observed that sorghum is even better than corn for baked products. (See“Sorghum on Stage”.) He and his colleague noted that corn and sorghum are similar, hence their choice of corn. Also, zein is a readily available by-product of corn wet milling and fuel-ethanol production.

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