Celeb chefs and free-from trend driving surge of interest in buckwheat

By Vince Bamford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Buckwheat has been a popular ingredient in new food and drink launches. Photo: iStock - rezkrr
Buckwheat has been a popular ingredient in new food and drink launches. Photo: iStock - rezkrr
UK supermarket chain Waitrose has reported a boom in sales of buckwheat – while the number of global baking ingredient launches using buckwheat flour has more than doubled in the past three years.

UK supermarket chain Waitrose has reported a boom in sales of buckwheat – while the number of global baking ingredient launches using buckwheat flour has more than doubled in the past three years.

Waitrose – which holds a 4.4% share of the UK grocery market [Nielsen 12w/e January 30 2016] – said sales of the gluten-free grain were up 80% year on year in January, and has tipped the ingredient for further growth.

Demand for ancient grains such as buckwheat is being fueled by continued awareness of coeliac disease and gluten intolerance, according to Mintel global food science analyst Laura Jones.

Desire for healthier, less refined alternatives to wheat has fueled the rediscovery of ancient grains​,” she said, adding that analysis of global launches of baking ingredients and mixes over the past three years showed strong growth in those containing ancient grains sorghum, barley and buckwheat.

Baking ingredient launches

Buckwheat baking ingredient launches increased 131% between 2012 and 2015, found Mintel, although this was dwarfed by the 950% increase in use of quinoa flour.

Mintel data showed buckwheat was also one of the most popular ancient grains used in new food and drink products between 2012 and 2015, after quinoa, millet and spelt. The number of annual buckwheat product launches had remained virtually static between 2014 and 2015, however, while those using chia and quinoa and increased 77% and 36% respectively (see table).

waitrose buckwheat
Buckwheat sales are booming, reports Waitrose

Celebrity chefs have encouraged consumers to use buckwheat in recipes including Nigella Lawson’s buckwheat cookies and Jamie Oliver’s buckwheat crêpes with poached apple and pear. Waitrose said searches for buckwheat recipes on its website were up as much as 400% year on year.

Versatile ingredient 

Sales of buckwheat have rocketed and it’s great to see such a versatile ingredient see the lime light​,” said Waitrose grocery buyer Chris Whittaker.

It’s a great alternative to rice and quinoa and is a perfect for our gluten-free customers. We definitely think the growth will continue as more chefs share recipes and more customers have the confidence and inspiration to try the grain​.”

Ancient grain product launches

Ancient grain

% of ancient-grain-containing food & drink launches 2012-2015

% change in number of product launches 2014-2015

Quinoa

25

36

Millet

24

8

Spelt

20

16

Buckwheat

15

3

Chia

13

77

Source: Mintel

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