Are tiger nuts the next superfood?
- Little-known tiger nuts could be the next big superfood. The tubers are an easy base for dairy-free milk and a good ingredient for gluten-free baking, according to Food Navigator.
- Tiger nuts are part of the root of the cyperus esculentus plant, native to Africa. It’s considered an ancient food, with pieces discovered inside Egyptian pharaohs’ tombs. Tiger nuts are creamy, with a naturally sweet coconut flavor.
- The nuts need to be soaked in water overnight to become edible. They can be eaten as a snack, pressed to make a plant-based milk, or ground into a flour.
The tiger nut is not in fact a nut. It grows in the ground, like carrots, potatoes and turnips. It has a good nutritional profile, with 6 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber for a quarter-cup serving. Still, they’re not well known outside of Spain, where they’re incorporated into horchata de chufa, a sweet summer drink.
Tiger nut milk could be the next big drink to hit the crowded plant-based beverage section. The challenge would be educating consumers about the product. Almond, cashew and coconut milk were initially easier to introduce, as consumers were already familiar with the key ingredients. Reading "tiger nut milk" on a carton may conjure up images of felines or an old school energy bar to an unwitting consumer, leading them to pass on the drink.
An easier way to start incorporating tiger nuts would be as an add-in to already popular plant-based food and snack products. If a KIND bar that already features cranberries, cashews and chia seeds added tiger nuts to the label, it may be easier for consumers to swallow. Tiger nuts' ability to be used in gluten-free baking also makes it a natural ingredient in this section. U.S. sales of gluten-free products brought in close to $973 million in 2014, and are projected to exceed $2 billion by 2019. If shoppers like the taste of tiger nut bread, this could be an ideal place to jump into the market.
The ingredient is unusual to the average U.S. consumer, but it does check a lot of popular boxes. It’s an ancient food that is gluten-free and tastes like coconut, an incredibly popular flavor right now. It may be tough to get the average American to soak nuts overnight in anticipation of tomorrow’s needs. However, the exotic-sounding tiger nuts could be enough of a hook to get consumers to at least try a food product made with the ingredient.
The process of adding a new ingredent like tiger nuts into an established recipe can be tricky. There would be no small amount of R&D that would be invested to get the flavor, texture and mouthfeel just right. Even then, only about 15% of new CPGs succeed in the market. Since tiger nuts fit into many of today's food trends, they may have more than a fighting chance to rise up to the challenge.