From an ingredient supplier perspective, a lot of artisanal breads feature multiple grains, and this is an area where ingredient suppliers can really help customers simplify their operations by supplying them with flour and grain & seed blends – both in gluten free and gluten containing, according to Ardent Mills.

Spelt is identified by Ardent Mills as emerging as “the heritage wheat for artisanal breads.”

Millet is another grain that Ardent Mills is watching, due to the United Nations naming 2023 as the international year of millet. When quinoa was the featured grain in 2013, sales increased significantly, and it helped propel it into mainstream consumption, according to industry data. By default, sorghum, buckwheat and teff are other grains Ardent Mills is watching, as these have similar qualities to millet.

Even though spelt is an ancient grain, it’s poised to become an increasingly in-demand ingredient in the near future for consumer-packaged goods companies and foodservice providers, according to current research and consumer insights from Ardent Mills proprietary research.

What makes spelt so special? As a distant relative of the wheat commonly grown in the United States today, it provides the taste consumers crave and gives brands, manufacturers, and bakeries an alternative grain they can use in a wide variety of applications. Most recently, spelt is enjoying a resurgence thanks to its utility in artisanal baking.

The ingredient trends website Tastewise cites the growing popularity of spelt flour between July 2021–January 2022, with the “protein,” “snack,” and “fitness” categories leading the way. Business Wire estimates a 4.6% expected annual growth for spelt globally through 2022.

And in the foodservice space, spelt (as a grain) volume sold through broadline distribution was up 107% in 2021 compared to 2019.3 Furthermore, spelt has seen an increase of 30% in the number of menu options.

The bottom line? Spelt popularity is growing for a number of applications, attracting the attention of leading brands that are looking to innovate with alternative grains.

Forward thoughts

What’s ahead for this versatile ingredient? The following are three trends identified by Ardent Mills.

Spelt is part of a category of grains called heritage wheats: unique staple grains valued for their nutritional value and distinctive taste and cultivated for thousands of years.5 More specifically, spelt is a type of farro; in fact, when farro shows up on restaurant menus, it’s typically in the form of whole berries of spelt. Consumers are increasingly drawn toward heritage wheats like spelt, einkorn, and khorasan for many reasons, in part because they agree heritage wheats deliver perceived “authenticity” to the products in which they are found, according to Ardent Mills proprietary research.

In an article for Food Business News, Rachel Cheatham, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Foodscape Group, writes that this trend is likely supported by health-seeking customers who value carbohydrate quality as well as variety and novelty. As she puts it, “[T]his adds up to a globally minded exploratory consumer who wants something new and different for their grain choices while somehow comforting and familiar at the same time.”

Spelt, like many heritage wheats, appeals to consumers today because it’s an ingredient that meets many of their personal preferences about the foods they consume.

Here’s some insight into this phenomenon based on proprietary research from Ardent Mills:

Nearly half of consumers strongly believe products that include heritage wheats are of high quality.

One third of consumers agree products that include heritage wheats will taste good.

More than a quarter of consumers report that heritage wheats could serve as a purchase tie-breaker between two similar products.

This leads us to a point where, today, 54% of consumers indicate they would buy a retail product that included heritage wheats, with interest strongest in Breads (ISB), Breads (Bagged), Crackers, Rolls, and Flour (for Home Baking). Our takeaway? Food service and CPG brands that want to meet the demand for products that innovate with heritage wheats may want to take a closer look at spelt.

Satisfy nutritionally demanding palates

There seems to be no end to the expectations modern consumers have for the nutrition and quality of the ingredients that go into their food and favorite CPG products. Food service and CPG brands sometimes struggle to create products that check most (if not all) of the boxes. Fortunately, spelt meets the nutritional requirements and traits many consumers report seeking:

It’s organic. Spelt is available as both an organic ingredient and a conventional ingredient.

It’s a source of whole grains. Spelt is available as both a white flour and a whole grain flour ingredient.

It’s plant-based. Spelt is a plant-based food.

It’s a source of protein. A serving size of cooked spelt (140g) contains 7.7 grams of protein.

It’s a source of fiber. A serving size of cooked spelt (140g) contains 5.5 grams of dietary fiber.

Foodservice providers and CPG companies targeting a younger audience will also want to note that this demographic is more likely to seek out ancient grains than older consumers. According to a 2017 GlobalData consumer survey, 40% of Americans aged 25–34 said they would consider using grains like quinoa and spelt as alternatives to traditional carbohydrates, compared with 33% of consumers overall and 26% of consumers aged 65 and above.

Make the most of a versatile, innovative ingredient

Spelt is so mild in flavor that it can be used as an alternative to rice or oatmeal as a whole grain, or as an easy flour replacement in many recipes that typically call for wheat flour. This versatility places spelt squarely in a strong position for product innovation, most prominently in the area of baked goods.14

According to proprietary data from Ardent Mills, the clear winners when it comes to spelt flour products include cakes, sourdough breads, and pancakes, with cookies and muffins not far behind.15 However, spelt’s versatility goes beyond these applications, as savvy food service providers and CPG companies have already started introducing spelt into new pasta, cereal/energy bar, alcoholic beverage, and pet food products.

There’s no shortage of available options companies have at their disposal when it comes to incorporating spelt as an ingredient. The hard part is narrowing down the best options for your brand and your customers. Fortunately, food service and CPG brands working with Ardent Mills never have to think twice about quality or consistency so they can focus on running their businesses and introducing customers to premium menu items and products that put a new twist on classic recipes.

Building upon strategic growth plan 

In spring 2022, Ardent Mills announced the opening of its brand-new state-of-the-art Port Redwing Mill in Gibsonton, Florida. The mill builds upon Ardent Mills’ strategic growth plan by strengthening supply chain agility, increasing efficiency and product consistency, and expanding the ability to meet customer needs.  

The 150,000-square foot mill has the ability to produce up to 1.75 million pounds of flour per day and is strategically located for rail, ocean and truck access. The facility’s 10 acres encompass a mill, grain storage elevator and cleaning house in addition to an office, and multiple packaging, warehouse and storage locations. The mill will also execute a five-year, paperless, zero-waste and energy efficient production plan. 

Port Redwing produces all-purpose, whole-wheat, high-gluten, cake and bread flours. Notable features include: 

Real-time data analysis and automation including industry-first near-infrared grain analysis and automatic, high-speed packaging lines.  

Rapid line intervention and issue management, which allows for the production line to be stopped, assessed and, if needed, corrected with minimal downtime. 

Bolstered on-site storage capacity of up to 4.1 million bushels, critical in managing sudden supply chain shifts or in case of a natural disaster.  

“For five decades, Ardent Mills has enjoyed the privilege of being a part of the Tampa community and it’s been amazing to see the city grow and change,” said Dan Dye, chief executive officer of Ardent Mills. “We look forward to continuing to serve our customers and this robust community through our brand new, state-of-the-art Port Redwing Mill. This mill is a testament to our commitment to transform how the world is nourished and drive innovation across plant-based ingredients.” 

Construction on Port Redwing began in 2019 and was completed in March 2022.