New Uses for Ancient Grains

August 3, 2015
Beverage Flavor Ingredients Trends

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Ancient Grains Return for Another Day

Ancient grains are being used in modern ways. Spelt, amaranth, teff, quinoa and faro are being used in bars, snacks, cooked risotto-style and more.


Grocery stores and fast casual chains such as Panera have been incorporating more artisanal breads into their product offerings. Panera offers spelt and amaranth in its sprouted whole grain loaf and “want to be the go-to place for whole grains, ancient grains and sprouted grains.” Some experts predict a drop in the gluten-free trend, but awareness of alternative grains in baked goods is higher than ever.

Side Dishes

Side dishes featuring ancient grains accounted for 24% of new products launched since 2011, with prepared meals and meal centers accounting for just 3% of the total.


12% of the products launched with chia seeds in 2013 were in the beverage category, which was up from zero in 2009, according to Mintel. The success of Nuwi’s Quinoa Drinkable Snacks is only the beginning.


Whether in popcorn, bars, clusters or popped chips, ancient grain snacks are in atypical formats and unique flavors. As consumers snack more than ever, it follows that ancient grains will make their way into more consumers’ daily habits.

The Taste of Ancient Times

We analyzed recent beverage, snack, cereal, side dish and chocolate introductions containing ancient grains, and here is a snapshot of the most featured flavors.


Sundried Tomato Basil
Olive Oil 
Sea Salt 
Sweet Chili 
Garlic Onion 
Nacho Cheese


Cookie Dough


Triple Berry 

Consumers Want a Modern Twist to Ancient Grains

Craft Beers

Ancient grains such as sorghum, enkir, quinoa, amaranth, kamut and spelt are expected to make major inroads in craft brews. Gluten-free is a big driver of this trend as gluten sensitive beer lovers still want to enjoy a lager or ale with a friend.


Ancient grains are making some headway in the cereal market, but at this point not as well as other categories. While ancient grains increased 50% across most categories, their use increased 44% in the cereal market. This should improve as consumers look to incorporate more of these grains into their diets.

Prepared Foods

Prepared foods typically have a “bad-for-you”reputation, but by adding ancient grains manufacturers are satisfying consumers desire for health. Prepared meal salads are an area where ancient grains are sprouting.

Snacks/ Crackers/ Cookies/ Bars

Snacks and crackers are the perfect category for ancient grains, and as consumers seek indulgence along with healthy, it gives them the chance to have their cookie and eat it too. Cookie and cracker launches containing sprouted grains has increased ten times from 2009 to 2014 globally. In North America,1% of all cookie and cracker introductions contained sprouted ingredients, representing significant growth in one year’s time.


Quinoa and chia are the darlings of the ancient grain world, particularly in beverages. And of all the drinks introduced containing ancient grains since 2010, 55% have been launched since 2013. Notably, the U.S. has seen the most ancient grain beverages introduced in this category, representing over half of launches since 2010.

The Nitty Gritty of Ancient Grains

  1. The National Restaurant Associations Survey of 1,300 chefs ranked ancient grains as the 15th most popular trend seen in restaurants in 2014 and was just ranked 13th for 2015.

  2. You know its popular when Cheerios plans to introduce an Ancient Grains concept called Cheerios+Ancient Grains featuring quinoa, kamut and spelt.

  3. Ancient grains classified as gluten-free (like chia) are enjoying larger growth than those that aren’t gluten-free (like spelt.) Products labeled gluten-free enjoyed a 29% increase in sales in 2014.

  4. Launch numbers for new products through November 2014 were 31% higher than for the full year of 2013, and have increased an astonishing 214% since 2010.

  5. The bakery category dominates for ancient grain introductions representing 25% of 2014 launches. Snacks and breakfast cereals follow.

  6. More than 40% of cereal-eating consumers claim to have eaten ancient grains during the first six months of 2014.

  7. The U.S. leads the world in products launched featuring ancient grains, accounting for about one-fifth of total global launches since 2011, followed by Germany and India.

  8. More than half of all ancient grain beverages launched since 2010 have been in the U.S.

  9. More than 50% of Millennials have incorporated ancient grains into their diets compared with 44% of the rest of consumers.


Let FONA’s market insight and research experts translate these trends into product category ideas for your brand. They can help you with concept and flavor pipeline development, ideation, consumer studies and white space analysis to pinpoint opportunities in the market. Our flavor and product development experts are also at your service to help meet the labeling and flavor profile needs for your products to capitalize on this consumer trend. We understand how to mesh the complexities of flavor with your brand development, technical requirements and regulatory needs to deliver a complete taste solution. From concept to manufacturing, we’re here every step of the way. Contact our Sales Service Department at 630.578.8600 to request a flavor sample or visit