OK, most of the buzz swirls around gluten-free. But other factors prime the pump of consumer interest in baked products made with nonwheat flours.

Whole grain has a lot to do with it. “Consumers are more aware and knowledgeable about the benefits of consuming whole grains,” said Brook Carson, director of R&D, ADM Milling, Overland Park, KS. “With the focus on whole grain in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is easier for consumers to recognize the importance and remember to seek out whole grain options.”

The biggest changes have come in the past few years because of multiple factors, noted Beth Arndt, PhD, director of R&D, ConAgra Mills, Omaha, NE. “Developments like the movement toward more whole grains, the increased consumption of gluten-free foods and an increased interest in ethnic foods from different cultures and time periods have facilitated much of this growth,” she said.

“Some of the ancient grains — including amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum and teff — fit into all three of these areas,” she added, “because they are primarily available as whole grains, naturally gluten-free and tied to ancient cultures around the world.”

Rising interest in this product category also spurs a comeback for multigrain products. Dr. Arndt cited consumer studies that show multigrain’s strong appeal and its perception “as being even more nutritious than whole grain.”