Only this month, at the Natural Products Expo West event in California, sprouted grains specialist Angelic Bakehouse – best known for its breads and wraps - launched its first snacking product. And fellow US brand Way Better Snacks – which has been extolling the virtues of sprouted grains for around five years – has recently extended its own range.
And while sprouted grain snacks have put down their deepest roots in the US, manufacturers say demand is growing in other parts of the world, particularly Europe. Snacks account for the majority (37%) of sprouted grains products in the US while, at 50% of products, baked goods are most popular in Europe [Mintel].
Sprouted grains are best known for health claims - including lower calories and improved nutritional vales – but some industry observers believe it is taste that will drive the category forward.
Not just a health product
“Sprouted grain products were once thought of as strictly a diet or health food, and limited to just breads,” said Jenny Marino, CEO and president of Angelic Bakehouse, which has launched Seven-grain Bread Crisps produced from Angelic’s ‘sprouted mash’ ingredient, comprised of grains of red wheat berries, quinoa, oat groats, rye berries, barley, amaranth and millet
“We are bringing new life to the shelves with all kinds of unique products – pizza crusts, wraps, crisps, buns, and baguettes – all featuring superior taste, texture and nutrition,” she added.
It’s a view echoed by Nick Barnard, co-founder of UK cereals and snacks business Rude Health, which has launched sprouted grain flours and porridge and is now looking at other uses for sprouted grains as an ingredient.
What is a sprouted grain?
While there is no regulation around - or definition of - a sprouted grain, Nick Barnard of Rude Health explains, in his own words, what a sprouted grain is:
“When a grain is sprouted the seed becomes a growing plant - it is, in other words, a vegetable. The phytic acid (an anti-nutrient) is reduced and the complex carbs are transformed into easily digestible simple sugars. And where gluten is present it is also much reduced.
“In summary, sprouted grains are less of a strain on the immune system, are easier to digest, and release more available nutrients. And, crucially taste much better.”
“We are exploring these exciting possibilities right now - using sprouted grains will bring increased nourishment and better digestibility to recipes and also wonderful flavors too,” he told BakeryandSnacks.
Targeting the Millennials
A recent Mintel report suggested blends of sprouted cereal ingredients could appeal to consumer interest in new flavors – and particularly the all-important Millennial audience. Mintel found 23% of US Millennial consumers who buy pasta, rice, noodles or grains are interested in new flavors, compared with 19% of all US buyers.
Burgeoning interest in gluten-free food is also an opportunity for sprouted grains such as quinoa and buckwheat – and Mintel found that 47% of the sprouted grain food and drink products launched in the past four years carried a gluten-free claim. Nonetheless, sprouted wheat appeared in 29% of new sprouted grain products, making it the second most common sprouted grain after quinoa (see chart below).
Against such a backdrop, manufacturers expect to see growth in the number of snacking products utilizing sprouted grains.
“Many established snack companies are starting to incorporate these nutrient-packed grains, beans and seeds to create better-for-you snacks, Way Better Snacks CEO Jim Breen told this site in January. And he should know – his products are sold in Target, Whole Foods, Kroger and Stop & Shop in the US, as well as most major retailers in Canada and a number of European countries.
Retailer interest in sprouted grains
Retailers – already well aware of the boom in natural and clean-label products – have been receptive to the sprouted grains concept, say manufacturers.
“It’s a brilliant way to bring much needed theater and point of difference,” said Barnard.
The extra work required to produce sprouted grains can also bring premium prices – and increased production costs.
“It takes considerable expertise to sprout grains successfully and consistently, and then to dehydrate them slowly so that they are shelf stable,” adds Barnard.
But the extra effort and expense doesn’t dampen producers’ enthusiasm for the ingredient.
“Consumer demand will drive innovation and differentiation in the coming years,” says Angelic Bakehouse’s Marino. “But at the moment, the snack category is ripe for a gourmet, healthy indulgence.”
Source: Mintel GNPD