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Cereal ingredients tap into leading health trends

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Product developers increasingly are exploring how cereal ingredients can help them respond to a variety of trends, including for digestive health, plant-based, gluten-free or high protein foods.

A new report from Persistence Market Research predicts consistent expansion of the global cereal ingredients market to 2030, citing the “growing influence of healthy diets”. Consumers’ gradual shift toward healthier eating covers a wide range of ideas about what that means – and a wide range of cereal ingredients aim to tap into the trend, from flours and whole grains in gluten-free bakery, to ancient grains used for their unique flavour, fibre or protein content.

Speaking at the recent Fi Connect event, Stefano Renzetti, Senior Scientist and Project Leader at Wageningen Food & Biobased Research, said:

“Reformulation is evolving into an opportunity for growth based on consumer trends towards, for instance, health and indulgence, sustainability aspects as well as naturalness and clean label, plant-based food, and also fibre enrichment and digestive health. We can see this in the number of new products that have been launched recently on the market which occupy this space”.

Gluten-free flours

Gluten-free has become an important trend, and the number of new products making free-from claims in Europe has increased steadily over the past five years, according to Mintel. As a result, researchers are exploring various cereal ingredients to ensure the best quality finished products. Oat and sorghum flours, for instance, have different effects on bread, but Renzetti says both have a specific type of starch that provides volume and a soft crumb.

When selecting cereal ingredients, he recommends identifying not only the desired ingredient properties, but also the processing steps needed for a specific product.

“And always keep in mind health and sustainability aspects,” he added.

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Plant-based

Although many products made with cereal ingredients are inherently plant-based, two-thirds (67%) of plant-based claims occurred outside the meat and dairy categories in 2020, according to Innova Market Insights.

“There’s been significant consumer demand for these products,”

said Tiia Morsky, Ingredients Research Team Leader at Campden BRI, also speaking at the Fi Connect event. She cited research from GVR which valued the vegan bakery ingredients market at USD1.1 billion in 2018, with an expected growth rate of 5.6% from 2019 to 2025.

“Some of the bakery products are naturally plant-based, like breads typically already are vegan or plant-based,” she said. “However, in recent years there’s been a couple of really interesting launches targeting high protein or low carbohydrate levels…They can use either whole seeds or grains to boost the protein content, and some of them use more flours from protein-rich ingredients such as ancient grains or pulses”.

High in protein

Richard Charpentier, Founder and Owner of Baking Innovation, also highlighted the protein content of cereal ingredients as a way to boost protein in a range of baked goods. In Europe, manufacturers can make a high protein claim if at least 20% of the energy value of the product is provided by protein. 

“You’ll find proteins from wheat, from rye, from barley, from quinoa, spelt, teff, sorghum,” he said. “All those have natural protein and all the differences you will find in terms of flavour and texture will impact your baked goods”.

The protein in each cereal ingredient has a big effect on functionality in baked goods – gluten in wheat, spelt and rye helps create volume, for instance – but it also adds flavour. Charpentier explained that spelt protein adds some chewiness and kamut provides some nutty, buttery flavours.

“Some are sweeter, and if you go to the sorghum or the quinoa, they have a tendency to be a more bitter…It’s about understanding the unique functionalities that they all have,” he said.

However, focusing on cereals alone may risk missing out on broader benefits. Charpentier suggests that combining grains with other ingredients, such as seeds, legumes or dairy, could help manufacturers develop products with complete proteins, chiming with consumer demand for better, or higher quality proteins.

“That’s where there’s a lot of opportunities for reformulating with protein,” he said.

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