Trends and ‘trendy’ in global grains

Grains and Legumes Nutrition Council logo

With a constantly evolving range of foods on supermarket shelves and a huge number of product launches every week, the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council (GLNC) continues to monitor the global trends that are influencing not only grain production globally but also what we will see in supermarkets in 2014 and beyond.

Presented at the Australian Grains Industry Conference in Melbourne in July, GLNC provided an update on the key trends, together with some consumer insights and the potential implications for grain and legume foods.

‘Free-from’ movement

Although it has often been dismissed as a fad, the consistent growth in sales of gluten-free products over the past decade has shown there is enduring consumer interest in the ‘free-from’ movement.

The segment is becoming mainstream, as product development widens into new categories, and supermarkets are responding with ‘own-label’ launches. Growing consumer interest in and self-diagnosis of other allergies and intolerances are driving expansion beyond gluten and lactose, to genetically modified, additive and preservative-free products.

It is clear that the free-from sector is set for further growth, which has several implications for the food industry. As taste remains the key to success even for foods that focus on better-for-you nutrition, gluten-free foods must be palatable to succeed. Although consumer acceptance of higher pricing for gluten-free foods can prove lucrative for some manufacturers, the costs of formulating gluten-free products, preventing cross-contamination and guaranteeing traceability can be substantial. Manufacturers of grain-based foods are increasingly exploring alternative (gluten-free) grains, such as rice, tapioca and chickpea flours, to satisfy this growing demand.


While protein for weight management is not a new trend, it has undergone an evolution. High-protein foods have transitioned from the body-builder niche through to weight and health-conscious consumers. There is increasing consumer understanding that protein is a “good thing” in a healthy diet and there is an increased emphasis given to protein by weight-management regimes.

Protein-rich ingredients are being added to cereal bars, powdered shakes, soups, pastas, ready-to-drink beverages, cereals, and sweet and savoury snacks. New product formulations such as high-protein breads and higher-protein cereals are substituting, or combining, grains to increase protein content.

Plant proteins such as peas, potatoes, chickpeas, bananas, sprouted brown rice and microalgae are emerging as a way to bolster protein to meet this demand, particularly among vegetarian consumers.


While the scientific evidence consistently links a variety of whole grains with reduced risk of disease and improved nutrition, oats have a universal appeal that is unrivalled by other traditional and commonly consumed whole grains such as wheat, rye or barley. People recognise that oats are a healthy food and this has translated into their use being extended into other food categories.

Although porridge, made from rolled or quick oats, is the main form in which Australians consume oats, internationally oats have been incorporated into a variety of foods including oat-based dairy alternatives and fruit and oat liquid breakfast. In Australia, a ‘cholesterol-lowering’ pasta product using oat fibre was recently launched. The high content of cholesterol-lowering beta-glucan is considered to be one of the key reasons that oats are being increasingly used in different food formats.

New ‘ancient grains’

Image of pulses in a jar

2014 is likely to see the continued rise of ancient varieties of grains.

Some new ‘ancient grains’ this year include kamut (Khorasan wheat), einkorn, spelt, sorghum and teff.

Just like more traditional whole grains such as wheat, oats, rye and barley, ancient grains have the potential to contribute important nutrients within a balanced diet and help reduce the risk of disease.

Foods such as puffed kamut and spelt breads are already available in mainstream supermarkets, and these other varieties can be bought online or in healthfood stores (see Ground Cover Issue 110, May–June 2014, Healthy future looms for ancient grains).

A champion for chickpeas

While not every trend in the US arrives on Australian soil, the rise of chickpea consumption is one to watch. In the US, a taste for hummus is driving chickpea consumption exponentially. From 1995 to 2010, hummus expanded from a US$5-million-a-year (A$5.3 million) market to one worth US$325 million (A$347 million).


2013 was the International Year of Quinoa and saw the continued growth of this pseudo grain. Internationally, launches of quinoa products increased by more than 50 per cent in 2013 and have had a remarkable rise in popularity, growing more than five-fold over the past five years. In 2014, quinoa moved into the mainstream and can now be found as whole grain, flaked and flour, as well as in breads, breakfast cereals, bars and even as a milk substitute.

Is chia a grain?

While chia is commonly incorporated into grain foods such as breads, cereals and muesli bars, it is classified as an oilseed – not a grain. Chia has different nutritional features, namely being higher in oils (healthy fats) when compared with traditional grains and pseudo grains, which have a lower fat content.

Similar to quinoa, chia has also experienced exponential growth in recent years and can be found in a wide range of foods, particularly grain foods. One product that raised the eyebrows of the GLNC team is a recent product released in the US – chia water … yes, water with chia seeds.

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