With some of the nation’s biggest organic brands already among its customers, Kamut International is anticipating even more growth as it expands the science behind its ancient grain to target heart health, diabetes and sport nutrition.
A recent paper in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition documented the first human data of the potential antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of Kamut khorasan wheat.
The company is building on this “big breakthrough” and is involved in trials with heart disease patients and, separately, diabetics, said Bob Quinn, PhD, president and founder of Kamut International, during a visit to FoodNavigator-USA’s offices in Manhattan.
The ancient wheat is higher in protein and many minerals, especially selenium, zinc, and magnesium, compared to modern wheat. It also contains a higher percentage of lipids, and can be described as “high energy wheat”.
Understandably, the Montana-based company is also targeting the sports segment, particularly for high endurance sports like marathon runners and cyclists (the company was a sponsor of the 2012 Missoula Marathon in Montana). Kamut-containing products are already popular among some of Italy’s top soccer clubs, with Bologna FC, Torino FC, AC Milan, and Calcio Catania all using the products, said Dr Quinn.
“The sports segment has huge potential in the US,” he added.
“We believe that Kamut can become a culture and not a fad. It tastes good. Yes, it’s more expensive, and we don’t apologize for that. We pay farmers a fair price and consumers, by eating a healthy diet, can save on health care.”
The company is continuing to invest in research, but Dr Quinn has a much grander goal in mind for his Kamut wheat: “My long term goal for our research is to get enough preliminary results to get the attention of the big research hospitals and/or NIH who have enough money to do some full blown studies with enough individuals to make the results indisputable.”
As the science builds, and consumer demand for organic and 'natural' grows, the opportunities for Kamut-containing products are impressive. “The potential is huge, limited only by the organic acreage,” continued Dr Quinn. “Along with spelt, we are offering an alternative to modern wheat.”
The grain is grown by an informal co-operative of 250 organic farmers on 80,000 acres in Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, and is limited to regions without too much rain. The yield of Kamut wheat is 10-15% less than spring wheat, he said, but khorasan wheat has never been bred for yield.
Sixty percent of the Kamut currently goes to Italy, and, of the 2,000 products around the world formulated with the ancient wheat, 1,800 products are in Italy.
“In Italy, we’ve experienced 40% growth,” he said.
The 100 or so products in the US include some big names in the food segment, including Nature’s Path (North America's largest organic cereal brand), Eden Foods, Bimbo Bakeries, and Hain Celestial Group.
Other growth markets are Brazil (“a growing interest in organic”), and the Middle East (“diabetes is a concern”). Kamut khorasan wheat is currently used in products including breads, pasta, cereals, snacks, pastries, crackers, beer, grain coffee, and green foods.
Dr Quinn owns the trademark on Kamut, and while there are other producers of Khorasan wheat, he said he will protect the trademark.
“Since Kamut International owns the trademark ‘Kamut’, any wheat sold under this trademark must follow the quality specifications required by Kamut International,” states the company’s website . “Consequently, anyone who wants to use the ‘Kamut’ trademark must sign, free of charge, a license agreement promising to follow these specifications. In this manner the customer is guaranteed quality and purity when they see the ‘Kamut’ brand.”