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Taste, local and health hold keys to success for sorghum products

By Stephen Daniells , 19-Sep-2012

The success of sorghum grain products could be dependent on emphasizing health benefits, local sourcing, and the sensory profiles, suggests new data from Kansas State University.

According to findings published in The Journal of Food Science, appealing sensory characteristics will also be “indispensable to further the project of developing sorghum grain based food products”.

Data from a national survey of 1,002 people and focus groups with a total of 34 participants revealed that consumers prefer sorghum-based breakfast cereals to have a crunchy texture, while breakfast cereals and granola bars would be expected to have a sweet and salty flavor combination, along with chocolate flavor and nuts.

Gluten-free potential

Sorghum is one of the world’s oldest known grains, and varies in color from dark brown, to red, to white. It is also one of a range of ancient grains that are naturally gluten-free that have gained in popularity as the market for gluten-free foods has grown. Others include amaranth, teff, millet, and quinoa.

Different types of sorghum flour are said to provide different benefits to manufacturers depending on the intended application. White sorghum flour, for instance, provides a bland flavor, which can be useful for reproducing the flavor of white wheat flour without any unfamiliar or distinctive tastes. Meanwhile, whole grain white sorghum flour can be used to produce a gluten-free product that also has the nutritional benefits associated with whole grains.

New data

The Kansas-based researchers aimed to determine the most important aspects of sorghum grain for consumers in order to be able to emphasize these concepts when promoting sorghum use in food products.

“Results of the present study will help producers develop and promote successful products made with sorghum grain,” they said.

Data from the focus groups showed that health figured highly on the list of consumer preferences for grain products, but for products considered ‘treats’ the health message fell flat.

In addition, the gluten-free aspect of the grain was of interest to some consumers, “not because of personal intolerance but to have choices at home for possible guests with this health issue”, said the researchers.

‘Naturally’ gluten-free was more interesting than ‘gluten-free’, they added.

Data from the focus group was then confirmed in a national survey.

“The heath aspects of grain products seemed to be the most appealing for consumers [in the focus groups], whereas [the national survey] showed that sensory attributes were the principal drivers for purchase intent,” they said.

Source: Journal of Food Science
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/j.1750-3841.2012.02917.x
“Consumer Input for Developing Human Food Products Made with Sorghum Grain”
Authors: L. Vazquez-Araujo, E. Chambers IV, P. Cherdchu

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