Top trends for grains and legumes in 2014

Have you noticed the constant flux of new products and new categories of foods in your local supermarket? This ongoing cycle of change is driven by national and international food trends which relate directly to what people want to purchase and so what is in our supermarkets. Here, Sarah Hyland – Research Director at Colmar Brunton, provides some insights into the global trends influencing what we see in our supermarkets as well as which grain and legume foods will be trending 2014.
Naturality is number 1 – ‘Naturality’ is the biggest food trend in most Western countries at the moment. Natural is a buzz word which continues to have an influence on consumers’ food choices and what we see in our supermarkets. Interestingly, it appears that ‘natural’ is very much defined in the mind of the consumer – meaning made from fewer or simpler ingredients (“clean labels”) and foods with real (or perceived) health benefits. There very much exists a kind of intrinsic ‘health halo’ and even naturally functional characteristic for natural or perceived to be natural foods and beverages. 
Caution with the ‘free from’ movement – One area of particular interest is the gluten free and free from movement which continues to grow exponentially overseas and in Australia. While there is certainly a need for additional choices for people with medicinally diagnosed food allergies or food intolerance – it may often be the case that people without these medically diagnosed conditions perceive these ‘free-from’ foods as healthier for them than traditional options which may not be the case – and they generally cost more.
While many foods are vying for recognition as ‘natural’ and healthy in people’s minds the easiest way to choose healthier foods is by choosing a variety of foods within the Five Food Groups suited to your specific needs. These foods includes grain foods – mostly whole grain or high fibre, legumes, vegetables, fruits, diary, protein foods –eggs, meat, poultry, fish, nuts.
Oats – A flag ship for healthy whole grains – While the scientific evidence consistently links a variety of whole grains with reduced risk of disease and improved nutrition, oats have a universal appeal which is unrivalled by other traditional and commonly consumed whole grains like wheat, rye, or barley. People get that oats are a healthy food, and this has translated to their use being extended into other food categories with success. 
While rolled or quick oats as porridge is the main format in which Australians enjoy oats, overseas oats have been incorporated into variety of other foods including oat-based dairy alternatives, fruit and oats liquid breakfast and just recently in Australia a new ‘cholesterol lowering’ pasta product was launched in Australia containing oat fibre. The high content of cholesterol lowering beta glucan is likely to be one of the key characteristics of oats contributing to their uptake in different food formats. 
New ‘Ancient Grains’ on the horizon – With ancient grains hot on the fork of many, 2014 is likely to see the continued rise ancient varieties of grains. To accompany some of the currently emerging ‘ancient grains’ (featured in the December 2013 edition of Balance) keep an eye out for some new ‘ancient grains’ in 2014 including kamut, einkorn, spelt, sorghum and teff. Just like our more traditional whole grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley, they have the potential to contribute important nutrients within a balanced diet and help to reduce the risk of disease. Food such as puffed kamut and spelt breads are already available in mainstream supermarkets, and these other varieties can be purchased online or in health food stores.
Hummus a champion for chickpeas – Whilst not every trend in the US arrives on Australian soil, the rise and rise of chickpea consumption is one to watch. In the US, a taste for hummus is driving chickpeas consumption exponentially. In fact, Hummus had expanded from being a $5 million-a-year US market in 1995 to one worth $325 million in 2010.
Quinoa becoming mainstream – 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa and this saw the continued growth of this nutritionally important grain. Internationally, launches of quinoa products increased by over 50% in 2013 and have had a remarkable rise in popularity, growing more than fivefold over the last five years. In 2014 it is safe to say quinoa has moved into the mainstream and can now be found as whole grain, flaked and flour as well as in breads, breakfast cereals, bars and even as a milk substitutes. 
Is Chia a grain? While chia is commonly incorporated into grain foods like breads, cereals and muesli bars, it is actually classified as an oil seed – not a grain. Chia has different nutritional features, namely being higher in oils (healthy fats) when compared with traditional grains and pseudo grains which have a lower fat content. Similar to quinoa, chia has also experienced exponential growth in recent years and can now be found in a wide range of foods particularly grain foods. One product that certainly raised the eyebrows of the GLNC team is a recent product released in the US – Chia water… yes, water with chia seeds throughout!

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