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The Next Quinoa


The protein-packed quinoa grain has reached “ubiquity,” according to Chicago-based menu research company Datassential, the point at which the food world usually wants to move on to a slightly different ingredient that will capture the same consumer appeal.

Reporting on the Whole Grains Council's biannual conference, Food Navigator detailed how other ancient grains are poised to join the ranks of quinoa, if not replace it. First, there are more forms of quinoa to explore, including puffed and popped, which bring crunch and other texture to wet and dry mixes. Puffing and popping also bring new shine to well-known grains like corn and rice.

Next, different colors of popular grains are primed to draw new attention to the category. Black and brown rice, red wheat and multicolored quinoa are already on many radars, and purple wheat and corn were on display at the recent International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE) show. Suppliers there noted that colorful grains pack healthful anthocyanins, polyphenols and flavonoids, the same “super food” attributes that make blueberries a powerhouse.

Some researchers also see millet as a grain with potential because of its tolerance for extreme growing conditions and its nutrient density. Sorghum, another nutritious and protein-rich grain, is said to be on the uptick, showing 40 percent growth last year, according to the United Sorghum Checkoff Program.

Datassential sees wheat berry, buckwheat, couscous, farro, bulgur, chia seeds, flax seeds, hominy, barley and polenta in the process of widespread consumer adoption, while triticale, millet, spelt, teff, sorghum, freekeh, Kamut khorasan wheat, amaranth, red wheat and black rice are still in the inception phase.

Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

  • Multicolored versions of a single grain in sides and salads
  • House-made granolas and breakfast bars
  • A new grain every week during soup season
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