- Seeds and grains add nutrition, flavor and texture to packaged foods, and are becoming more popular across categories, Prepared Foods reports.
- Nearly one-third of U.S. launches of snack nuts and seeds in 2017 featured seeds, according to Innova Market Insights, up from 26.5% in 2012. Seeds are also increasingly popular in bakery products like breads, savory biscuits and cereal bars. While sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are still the most commonly used, products containing hemp seeds have seen the fastest growth, nearly doubling in five years.
- Meanwhile, the use of grains — and ancient grains in particular — is also on the rise for their nutrition and clean label appeal, as well as in gluten-free products. Quinoa leads the pack, appearing in 44% of all U.S. product launches containing ancient grains last year, while chia seeds (which Innova tracks as a grain) appeared in 37%.
Seeds and grains tap into many current market trends, from clean label, natural and minimally processed, to free form and high protein. They also fit well with growing demand for vegan and vegetarian products, as well as diets like raw and paleo.
While many such diet trends are often met with skepticism, the move toward more plant-based nutrition looks set to stay, particularly if meat- and dairy-free options can also deliver on taste. From 2012 to 2016, plant-based product claims in the U.S. grew at a CAGR of 35.8%, according to HealthFocus, with seeds and grains effectively adding more texture and flavor to plant-based foods.
Many packaged food trends start in fine dining, and sunflower seeds were called out as an up-and-coming ingredient among top chefs last year. They were featured in salads, broths, as rice substitutes and even in desserts. Meanwhile, consumer demand for many ancient grains has already reached the mainstream. Quinoa, for example, appears on about 9% of restaurant menus, according to a recent Datassential analysis, including 17.5% of fine dining establishments.
Ancient grains was also given a boost by the Whole Grains Council, which says they are more nutritious than modern grains, such as wheat, rye and barley. And as consumers increasingly demand less processed, more nutritious foods, ancient grains (and seeds) are replacing modern grains in many food products.
Just as quinoa’s popularity skyrocketed a few years ago, Innova’s data suggest that hemp seeds may be the next ingredient to watch. Hemp increasingly has been in the spotlight as a nutritional powerhouse, particularly for its favorable protein profile. The ingredient still has some way to go before reaching the mainstream, but already appears in a range of foods and drinks, including ice cream, salads, protein bars and breakfast cereal.