Bakeries across America are incorporating ancient grains into products.

Interest in sprouted grains and ancient grains for bread baking is sprouting up across America. A survey conducted by Way Better with the Natural Marketing Institute found that 17 percent of Americans were already aware of products with sprouted grains and seeds. The number of new product launches with sprouted grains is small—just 19 in 2014 according to Mintel—but numbers are growing fast. Sprouted grains can be milled into flours, baked into bread or used whole in formulations.

Further, ancient grains rank among the top 20 food trends in a new survey from The National Restaurant Association (NRA). The NRA annually explores the top menu trends for the coming year. For this year’s What’s Hot culinary forecast, the NRA surveyed nearly 1,600 professional chefs who are members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF) to find which foods, beverages and culinary themes will be hot on restaurant menus in 2016.

The demand for ancient grains goes hand in hand with increasing interest in whole grain breads. According to the Whole Grains Council, 64 percent of Americans have increased whole grain consumption “some” or “a lot” in the past five years. Thirty-one percent said they nearly always choose whole grains, up from 4 percent five years ago.

With these key trends in mind, there is rising demand among artisan bread bakers for sprouted grains and sprouted grain flours.

Keimfraft flour makes items easier to digest and intensifies flavors.

At a special launch party on Oct. 30 in Hoboken, New Jersey, Organic Keimkraft Flour Blend was introduced officially to the US market by A. Oliveri & Sons, the US distributor of Keimkraft.

Roman Signer of FS Food Services AG in Switzerland explained that adding 10 percent Keimkraft to white bread formulations can increase the nutrient levels of your breads to nearly the same levels of whole grain breads. Further, baked goods made with Keimkraft retain freshness longer because of improved water absorption. Bakers won’t need dough conditioners or malt because Keimkraft accelerates the fermentation process.

“Keimkraft pushes your white bakery products naturally to whole wheat nutrition levels,” Signer says. “And it is easier to digest and intensifies taste and flavor. The applications are for bread, pasta, cereal and muesli and also pastries, cakes and baked snacks.”

Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain Migros uses Keimkraft in its organic product line with successful results, Signer says, and McDonald’s Switzerland uses Keimkraft in buns for Chicken Junior Happy Meals. The sprouted flour has been available commercially in Switzerland for a few years and is now available to the US market for the first time. It is certified European organic and non-GMO.

The nine sprouts in Keimkraft for “nutrition, freshness and flavor” are wheat, corn, millet, spelt, flaxseed, alfalfa, pink clover, peas and lentils.  “We recommend adding 7 to 10 percent of Keimkraft to your formulations for baked goods,” Signer says.

Zach Golper, owner of Bien Cuit, highly recommends Keimkraft.

Artisan baker Zach Golper, chef/owner of Bien Cuit retail bakery in Brooklyn, New York, has tested Keimkraft with extremely positive results. He spoke at the launch party to share his experiences with the new product.

“As a replacement for dough conditioners, it blew my mind,” Golper says. “I focus on slow fermentation. It takes three days for us to make a loaf of bread. With Keimkraft, I got the same results in 20 hours with added nutritional benefits. I used it in my croissants and got a nice open crumb. It dramatically increases enzymatic activity, and adding a little Keimkraft can shave off production time and save you money.”

Nicholas De Palma, president of A. Oliveri & Sons, a bakery distributor in North Bergen, New Jersey, says that bakers “don’t have to switch over everything to Keimkraft, but you can add a little of this to make healthier bread. This product is going to sell itself.”

The “coolness factor” is another reason that Golper recommends using the product. “Interest in sprouted grains is exploding,” he says. “The sprouted grain factor has the same effect on the consumer as shopping at Whole Foods: Yes, I will pay $10 for a loaf of bread. The customer stops worrying about price. And eating healthy is becoming the norm in America. Sprouted grains are cool, and also extremely healthy.” 

Beyond Quinoa

Two ingredients that no trendy retail foodservice operation would dare leave off the menu these days are kale and quinoa. Although some recent media reports suggest that quinoa fatigue has started to set in and another ancient grain is about to steal the show, quinoa fans need not despair, according to Food Formulation Trends:  Ancient Grains and Sprouted Ingredients, a report by market research publisher Packaged Facts. 

The sustained appeal of quinoa and ancient grains, generally, can be attributed to the growing number of products containing them that flag the lack of genetic modification or gluten, or both. Their ability to add visual, flavor and textural appeal must also not be overlooked. Clearly, the stories behind ancient grains resonate so strongly with consumers and the nutritional and health benefits are so compelling that there is plenty of room for quinoa to share the stage with less widely known ancient grains. 

This is particularly true for millennials and consumers age 39 and younger. Findings from the April 2015 Packaged Facts consumer survey indicate that while nearly 30 percent of all US adults purchased ancient grains either in restaurants, as prepared foods or as packaged foods or beverages or bulk bin items at food retailers in the past 30 days, almost half (46 percent) of those age 18 to 39 purchased them. These younger consumers consistently purchased ancient grains as packaged or bulk product at retail in the past 30 days at much higher rates than consumers age 40 to 49, who consistently demonstrated higher purchase rates compared with consumers age 50 and above. 

While it has been largely assumed that quinoa has been way out ahead of the pack when it comes to ancient grains, the Packaged Facts survey shows that the same percentage of younger US consumers age 18 to 39 bought quinoa as bought buckwheat (15 percent), followed closely by chia (13 percent), emmer (11 percent), barley (11 percent) and teff (9 percent). 

By contrast, the percentage of all US adults purchasing quinoa in the past 30 days really did lead relative to purchases of other ancient grains at 11 percent followed by buckwheat (9 percent), chia (8 percent), barley (8 percent) and emmer (6 percent).

Bottom line, where these younger consumers, age 18 to 39, really stand out is in terms of purchasing generally less familiar ancient grains, with about twice as many in percentage terms buying them as compared with all adults for emmer, teff, sorghum and einkorn and approaching this level for freekeh, kamut, farro and amaranth.  This is good news for all ancient grains, including quinoa.