He explains that while only 19 new products with sprouted grains and seeds launched in 2014, the “numbers are growing fast” and more manufacturers will enter the sprouted grain market across categories quickly to capitalize on sales in the U.S., which he predicts will reach $250 million by 2018 – up from $30 million currently.
Already this year, Better For You Foods launched a line of gluten-free sprouted ancient grain pizzas, which closely followed the launch late last year of Kellogg’s Kashi cereals with sprouted grains. (Read more about how the sprouted grains are rebooting the iconic cereal HERE.) Gretchen’s Grains also is exploring launching a line of sprouted grains on Amazon in the near future. (Read more HERE.)
Other early adaptors of the trend, which celebrity Chef Peter Reinhardt recently touted as “the next big thing,” are Ardent Mills and King Arthur Flour, which sell sprouted flour lines. (Read more HERE.)
Entrants in the market also likely will be encouraged by the success of Way Better Snacks, which last year sold $25 million worth of chips and crackers made from sprouted black beans, quinoa, flax and seeds from broccoli, kale and chia. This is up from zero just three years ago. (Read more HERE.)
What is driving interest in sprouted grains?
“A small but growing percentage of mainstream consumers who are reducing their consumption of carbohydrates, in particular foods made with wheat and corn,” are interested in sprouted grains because they have more bioavailable nutrients than their non-sprouted counter-parts, making them “good carbs,” Mellentin said.
For example, Ardent Mills found the levels of alpha tocopherol, B-vitamins, folate and fiber is 1.5 to 3.8 times higher in germinated seeds. How much of those increased bioavailable nutrients remain in the products once they are processed is debatable, but the science suggests the nutrients in sprouted grains hold up to heat processing better than regular grains, Mellentin said.
Even though the current science will not yet support strong claims about bioavailability, manufacturers do not need such claims to succeed “at this stage in the evolution of the market,” Mellentin said. “The initial buyers don’t need a claim as they are looking for something that they believe to be healthy. It’s enough to say sprouted and gluten-free and to refer to the seeds and grains,” at this point, he added.
Manufacturers also can make claims the sprouted grains are “naturally high in” nutrition such as omega-3s, depending on the type of sprouted grain used, he said.
“The beauty of using a naturally functional ingredient,” such as sprouted grains, “is you are choosing an ingredient which the health-informed consumer will be looking for as a result of their own research into healthier options,” he added.
Manufacturers also are drawn to sprouted grains because the ingredients’ benefits already are widely recognized by many consumers and are easily explained by the mainstream media, reducing the amount of marketing spend that otherwise would be needed to educate consumers, Mellentin said. He pointed to a 2014 survey by Way Better Snacks that found 17% of Americans already knew about sprouted products.
Manufacturers also are drawn to sprouted products because they can sell them at a premium -- roughly 25% more than the price of traditional baked potato chips, Mellentin told Food Navigator-USA.
While sprouting offers manufacturers significant potential, Mellentin cautioned it “must be carefully controlled by a specialist sprouting company, for food safety to maintain the nutritional value.”