Like super fruits, super grains are known for their nutritive benefits, he says. Protein and fiber content are two super grain qualities. Other possible characteristics are organic, gluten-free, high omega-3 fatty acid content and non-bioengineered.
Super grains are showing up in new products in such categories as breakfast cereal, bread, rolls and cookies, according to Datamonitor, a market research company. Super grains, especially chia seeds, are beginning to appear in beverages. Super grains may be combined in one product, such as amaranth and oats in hot cereal, Mr. Vierhile said. In Brazil, one bread product contains chia and macadamia nuts.
No scientific definition exists for super grains, Vierhile says.
“It’s kind of a fuzzy term,” he says.
In some cases super grains are actually seeds, like chia seeds and amaranth, but they have nutritive properties that are similar to grains, he said.
Vierhile gave details on several super grains.
Since farro is grown in Europe, more products with it appear in Europe, he said. Farro is high in vitamins, magnesium, protein and fiber. Over the past three years farro has shown up in new products in about 50 categories, according to Datamonitor. Farro may be divided into three different types of grain: spelt, einkhorn and emmer wheat. Baked foods such as pancake mixes contain spelt. A seven-grain yogurt product in Poland has spelt. Einkhorn wheat may be served on its own.
Quinoa has been grown in the Andes mountains in South America for about 5,000 years, Vierhile says. Growing areas for quinoa are limited, which has led to rising quinoa prices since the 1980s. Quinoa is high in protein and comes in either white strains or red strains. It works well with garlic and other spices.
Quinoa may be cooked simply by boiling water, Vierhile says.
“You don’t have to be a chef to use this product,” he says.
New products with quinoa have shown up in 40 different categories over the past three years, according to Datamonitor. The categories include breakfast cereal, cereal bars, cookies and pasta. Campbell Soup has quinoa in a product.
“The United States has kind of led this whole quinoa movement,” Vierhile says.
Millet, found in bird feed and bean bags, has a nutty flavor. It is sweet and high in protein. Millet has been used in more than 50 different product categories, including breakfast cereal, over the past three years, according to Datamonitor.
Amaranth and kaniwa are similar. Amaranth, which is actually a seed, has high protein content and is showing use in bread and pancakes. Not many products feature kaniwa, but amaranth has appeared in new products in about 40 different product categories over the past three years, according to Datamonitor. The categories include breakfast cereal, crackers and confectionery items. Amaranth may be used in alternative milk products for people who have allergies to dairy or soy.
The number of new product launches with chia seed has doubled over the past three years, according to Datamonitor. New product launches have come in 50 different categories, including cereal bars. Chia is cultivated in several geographic areas, including South America, Mexico and Australia. Chia has omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium and magnesium. Chia absorbs its weight in water, which is a satiety benefit for products with chia.
Kamut is a trademark for khorasan wheat grown to meet certain requirements, Vierhile says. Kamut must be certified organic, and it has to meet requirements for protein content and selenium content. Because of issues with mold and mildew, khorasan is a tricky grain to grow, Vierhile said. Kamut, like amaranth, may be used in dairy alternative products.
Teff, one of the world’s smallest grains, is high in calcium and resistant starch. Not a lot of packaged goods contain teff, Vierhile says. In Germany companies are mixing fruit flavors with teff.
“I’m not sure if America is quite ready for that yet,” Vierhile says.
Freekeh refers not to a grain but to a type of harvesting process. Freekeh is any type of wheat harvested in a green condition that locks in nutrition at its peak, Vierhile says. The resulting freekeh is high in protein, fiber and lutein.
“If you want to introduce a freekeh product, you will have to market it yourself,” Vierhile says. “There are not a lot of products out there.”