Superfoods and ancient grains such as quinoa, chia, kamut, farro, spelt, millet, amaranth and freekeh, which are high in fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals and in many cases are also gluten-free, high in omega-3s and antioxidants are proving to be popular ingredients used in new product development.

Datamonitor’s innovation insights director Tom Vierhile said in November that quinoa is trending for its very easy use, high protein and calcium content, and because it is gluten-free. So we are seeing it more in breakfast cereals, snack and cereal bars, bread and rolls, cookies, crackers, pasta and even in chocolate.

According to Mr. Vierhile, chia is the fastest growing ‘super grain’ in the market. Global new product launches featuring chia are doubling as product developers seek to cash in on its superfood credentials. Chia was the second most popular ‘supergrain’ for product launches in the U.S. market with 76 between January 2010 and September 2012. Products featuring amaranth or kaniwa were in 56 launches, quinoa led with 137 and farrow or spelt had 50 product launches.

Europe and the UK are now following North America and Australia as the next regions to embrace consumption of the Latin American ‘super food’ chia, as the BBC in the UK reported earlier this year. “With more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon, a wealth of antioxidants and minerals, a complete source of protein and more fibre than flax seed, the seeds have been dubbed a ‘dieter’s dream’, ‘the running food’, ‘a miracle’, and ‘the ultimate super food’, by advocates and athletes,” the BBC story said.

Ancient grains find favour with consumers Datamonitor’s ForeSights report says that consumers, packaged food manufacturers and the environment can reap rewards from heritage grains that have been farmed for thousands of years.

Ancient grains – or heritage grains – were highly prevalent before modern farming methods introduced hybrids. More nutritious, better for the environment and often locally grown, heritage grains meet current consumer needs for grain-based products that are delicious, healthy and good for the planet.

“There is a consumer backlash against mass-produced products with people increasingly questioning the credibility of processed foods and looking for greater transparency with regards to how and where products are manufactured and farmed,” says Tanvi Savara, associate analyst at Datamonitor Consumer. “64% of consumers are either somewhat or extremely concerned about the impact of processed foods on their health, with 57% claiming to be highly influenced by ‘natural’ claims when making food and beverage choices,” she says. Many heritage grains are gluten-free and contain significantly higher levels of nutrition – as much as double the amount of minerals and proteins – than modern wheats.

“Our research shows that 33% of global consumers are heavily influenced by glutenfree claims while 34% avoid certain foods and drinks for allergy reasons,” explains Savara. “In addition, there is a trend among high profile elite athletes to adopt gluten-free diets for sports performance, with many of this summer’s Olympic heroes claiming to eat gluten-free. This – together with growing awareness of the health benefits – will have a significant effect on the already burgeoning mainstream consumer trend towards gluten-free.

“Food manufacturers can create win-win situations with products that are more nutritious, naturally glutenfree and which provide a premium offering and pricing,” she says. “Opportunities exist to meet consumer needs with indulgent and premium food products that are good for business as well as health.”