What’s trending in grains?

By Alexandra Locke

After a 30% drop in grains consumption in 2014 (1) and plenty of talk about the benefits of the paleo, diet, the dangers of gluten and the plus side to cutting carbs, we’re now seeing a shift in media perspective,  with a much  more positive outlook for grains overall! With the right conditions, it’s high time to start promoting the benefits of grains again and get consumers back on board.
But where do the opportunities lie? There are three key trends where we see grains leading the charge in innovation…
Digestive Wellness
More than ever before, consumers are paying attention to how a specific food can make them feel, so they’re consciously looking for the benefits that certain foods can provide. What’s more, they want to feel assured that they’re promoting their digestive health and overall wellness when making food choices – these consumers will pay a premium for products which taste good and offer functional digestive benefits.
And this is where grains, whole grains specifically, come in – whole grains exhibit an impressive nutritional profile, providing dietary fibre, protein and are a healthy source of carbohydrate , also contributing nutrients like magnesium, folate and iron to our diets. Fibre intake is directly related to our digestive health so the opportunities for whole grain innovation in this category are big!
Good Carbs, Bad Carbs
Over the past year or so we’ve increasingly seen consumers understanding that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ carbs, with an emphasis on the importance of choosing the most healthful carbohydrate format. Both the media and consumers are becoming more aware that carbohydrates are essential as part of a healthy balanced diet, focusing on crowding out refined and processed carbohydrates by increasing intake of whole grains, wholemeal bread and pseudo-grains, as well as eating more ‘alternative’ forms of carbohydrates, think sweet potato toasts and zucchini noodles.
With ‘healthier’ forms of traditionally carbohydrate heavy foods now on the rise, we’re seeing significant movement towards alternatives such as ancient grains, legumes flours and even substitution of flour with pureed veg! But again, with consumer awareness of whole grains on the rise, grains can still play a significant part in the healthful innovation of this category.
And finally, the rise of snackification is promoting massive innovation. The Australian snacking market is now worth more than $2 billion and climbing fast (2) and Australians are now snacking four times as much as 10 years ago.
And it would appear that anything goes with this trend, any food can be engineered to be thought of as a snack, any time of day is open to snackification and there are no limits on product development – almost any ingredient that can be dried, pureed, shaped, extruded or frozen is open to innovation. Whilst grains traditionally dominated this category, we’re still seeing big opportunities for grain foods moving forward. More food than ever is being consumed on-the-go, especially at breakfast and manufacturers are innovating with grains to make healthy choices more convenient for today’s busy lifestyles.
Whilst these trends clearly present big opportunities for manufacturers and retailers, there are also significant opportunities for those at the very beginning of the supply chain – for the growers and the farmers.
These mega-trends have paved the way for several smaller trends within the grains space…
Ancient Grains 
Quinoa is now found on nearly every trendy café menu in some form or another with this group of grains being seen as untainted and intrinsically healthy. Perhaps their alternative title of pseudo-grains has helped with the allure, but this presents opportunities for diversification on farm and many young farmers are doing just that. And perhaps fonio is the next big ancient grain?
Back to Basics with Oats 
This humble grain has seen a huge resurgence in popularity in recent years and manufacturers have already taken advantage of this opportunity. Now’s the time for growers to reap the rewards of increased demand for this crop and add value in the form of exclusivity… think single origin oats, exotic flavours and on-the-go formats.
Consumers want to connect with their food more than ever, so now is the time for growers to tell their story. With social media at our fingertips and whole communities of consumers ready and waiting, the desire to understand where our food comes from is strong. And consumers are actively seeking out those products with a story behind them.
Now is the time to connect with consumers, tell them the story of how their product got from farm to store and enrich them with the knowledge of understanding where their food comes from. We can’t leave it just to the marketers and manufacturers to promote this category anymore – we all need to be involved with spreading the story and helping to bring back the belief in grains!


1. GLNC. 2017. Consumption & Attitudes Study. Unpublished.
2. Innova Market Insights Report. 2016

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