Soaring demand for spelt sees product launches up 130 per cent
According to Mintel, the number of new food product launches across Europe containing spelt stood at 157 this year, compared to 68 three years ago, and there may be further potential for market growth as consumers increasingly look for innovative products with good nutritional values.
Spelt is thought to have originated in about 8000 BCE – before bread wheat – as a hybrid of emmer wheat and goat grass. It has gained a reputation amongst consumers as a ‘new’, nutritious version of wheat in recent years, resulting in the spate of new product launches containing the grain.
It is a close relative of wheat, however, so even though spelt is wheat free, it is not gluten free. Therefore, it is still unsuitable for sufferers of coeliac disease, and some people who have a wheat intolerance may still react to spelt.
Spelt has also been increasingly embraced by the organic sector, as it lends itself well to organic production. One of the greatest benefits for organic food producers is that unlike wheat, which has easily-threshed loosely held grains, spelt’s husks hold on strongly to the grain, making it more resistant to insects and disease, and therefore ideal for chemical-free production.
Moving beyond bakery
The grain’s popularity has reached such heights that people are even slathering spelt germ oil on their skin and hair. One enterprising UK spa has taken things a step further, basing a whole treatment therapy on it.
Monty’s spa in Somerset, England, has developed a full treatment regime dedicated to spelt in an attempt to tap in to the increased demand for wheat-free products. The treatment has been marketed as an ‘inside-out’ approach to beauty, starting with herbal tea and spelt biscuits, made from the spa’s own home-grown organic spelt, before a massage session using spelt germ oil.
Marketing manager for Monty’s Karen Comer credits the popularity of the treatments to an increasing number of people seeking wheat-free diets – and extending that to their beauty regimes.
Comer told BakeryandSnacks.com: “We use the spelt oil in all our treatments. It is very popular and I think that is still increasing. There is a huge demand for it, as well as our granola range.”
She also claims that the grain’s high vitamin E content means that it is good for the skin.
“The owners saw a gap in the market for spelt with so many people wanting a wheat-free diet,” she added. “…I think its popularity will last a while with more and more people needing wheat-free diets.”
The treatment does not come cheap, however, at £150 for a two-hour session, and bottles of the spelt germ oil retailing at £500 a bottle.
The spa is owned by Monty and Roger Saul, who also run Sharpham Park Farm, where they grow the grain commercially and extract the germ oil.
Other ancient grains to have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years include quinoa, chia, kamut and amaranth.