Thursday, November 30, 2017

Grains & legumes: what's trending in 2018?

As another year draws to a close, we’ve been looking at key trends for 2018 – so what’s influencing innovation and driving consumer behaviour for the year to come?

“A key trend is a genuine growth opportunity. It’s a set of changes in consumer beliefs and behaviours, leading to a change in a market. It’s something on which a company can base its strategy to increase sales of existing products or create new products, to boost market share and profitability.”

In the first of a series of trends reports, we’ve taken a look at two of 2018’s top trends (with more to come) and the opportunities they present for industry innovation!

Number 1: Plant Based

Plant based is one of the biggest trends right now and this wide reaching category is having an effect on nearly every other foodie trend out there. In 2017, plant based was the second biggest trend, having a considerable impact on innovation and product development. And during 2018, the lifestyle shift that’s driving plant based is the rise of the inclusive Flexitarian diet, not so much an increase in the number of people adopting a vegan diet as many people think. A Flexitarian is defined as.... ‘a person who has a primarily vegetarian diet but occasionally eats meat and/or fish.’ 

Emerging research is also helping to drive the prevalence of plant based eating with more and more evidence pointing to the many health benefits of eating mostly plant based, including up to a 25% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and a lower frequency of obesity (1). Protein has a part to play here too with many consumers increasingly looking for alternatives to meat. In 2017, a massive 43% of Australians are strongly influenced by protein claims on pack (2).

As a result, consumer demand, changing eating patterns and technological advances are pushing innovation. Legumes are now appearing in all sorts of traditional foods, including breakfast cereals, snack bars and pasta as well as new development with smoothies, savoury snacks and bliss balls. Whole grains feature here too, due to their many health benefits and links with the benefits of increased fibre consumption, cereal fibre in particular. Both categories are driving innovation here.

So what's new within this space?

Plant based meat alternatives - Gold & Green Foods latest product combines oats and beans to create their plant based meat alternative – Pulled Oats...

A focus on plant protein - The Lupin Company’s Lupin Flakes are highly versatile and can be used in baking, added to breakfast cereals or porridge or used in plant based patties to add plant protein, texture and additional nutrients...

Reformulation to up the veggie/legume content of many traditionally grain based foods - the bread market too is seeing diversification with Finnish bakery Fazer adding vegetable and legume purees to breads to create new and innovative offerings...

Plant based is an exciting trend that's set to drive strategy within food for at least the next 5 years.

Number 2: Snackification

The next big trend for 2018, continuing on from 2017 and previous years, is the rise of the snack market. The younger generation is driving most of the growth within this trend, with millennials primarily looking to snack to tide them over between meals and increasingly replacing traditional sit down meals with a snack or two. And with 56% of us eating at least one snack every day (3), consumer demand is higher than it's ever been and is set to continue to grow. This change in the way we’re snacking, from between meal and on-the-go snacks to keep you going until your next meal to whole meals based on a selection of snacks, has prompted a change in consumer demand, with many of us now looking for healthy snacks instead of typically indulgent snack foods that have dominated this category in the past. This shift has ensured both whole grains and legumes are now featuring prominently within the many innovative new offerings available.

Opportunities here are plenty, but where's the biggest potential gain?

Creation of premium products - we’re increasingly willing to pay a premium for a great tasting snack that caters to our lifestyle and fulfils a genuine need. Good Thins crackers are a prime example with a range of different options for all (premium) tastes...

Ever more innovative offerings - Regrained Cereal Bars use leftover grains from the beer brewing process to create whole grain snacks...
There are no limits on innovation - perhaps the biggest opportunity of all within this space - from meat to dairy to veggies, any category is open for disruption. Health and often a focus on protein drives new development, take Biena’s new chickpea snack for example, which combines a typically savoury food with chocolate to create an unusual but delicious snack option...

Manufacturers and retailers will continue to experiment with new trends to fulfill consumer demand and as we become more adventurous with our food and more of us become food explorers, the opportunities for ever more exciting options continues to grow.

To find out more about the fascinating rise of the snack market, read our article here.


1. Harland J, Garton L. An update of the evidence relating to plant-based diets and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight. Nutrition Bulletin. 2016;41(4):323-38.
2. GLNC. 2017. Consumption & Attitudinal Study. 2017. Unpublished.
3. Choosi. Modern Foods Trend Report. 2017.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Forget activated almonds, this year it’s all about sprouted grains!

Last year the Washington Post predicted ‘sprouted everything’ would be a major food trend for 2017 (1). And based on the steadily growing range of sprouted grain products on supermarket shelves in Australia, this trend is here to stay in 2018. But what exactly is a sprouted grain, and does it boost the already impressive nutrient profile of a whole grain? Read on for a summary of the evidence:

But first, what exactly is a sprouted grain?
There is currently no regulated definition for a sprouted grain, but it’s commonly agreed that it is a whole grain that has been soaked in water, and has started the germination process. So put simply, it has ‘sprouted’ a new shoot, and is in the transition phase between a seed, and a new plant.

How do they differ nutritionally to regular grains?
While the evidence around sprouted grains is still emerging, sprouting grains may boost their nutritional value.
The idea is, once they have started sprouting, the grain uses up some of its own starch as energy to grow, which then makes it easier for us to digest. Likewise, germination is said to boost the availability of vitamins and minerals, increase the grain’s antioxidant levels, and reduce phytates - which inhibit the absorption of minerals like zinc, calcium, and iron, meaning we can absorb more of the good stuff. But, given that there is no standard definition for the process, it’s reasonable to assume that variation may exist between products (2,3,4).
Additionally, as sprouted grains need all parts of the grain intact to germinate, they are always a whole grain, as opposed to refined. This is important, as we know whole grains are brimming with health benefits, being richer in protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals than their refined counterparts. So whether or not sprouted grains have additional benefits, those eating them will be reaping the benefits of including whole grains – so it may be a win-win!

What does the research say?
A scan of the literature brings up a small pool of studies – few of which relate to humans. Early findings suggest sprouted grains may reduce risk and assist with the management of chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, fatty liver disease and depression. However, it’s unclear whether eating sprouted products offers additional benefit beyond simply consuming more whole grains, - supported by the evidence as reducing risk of chronic disease and improving diet quality (5).

Where can we find them?
As well as being used in place of grains in home cooking or on trendy cafĂ© menus, sprouted grains are making their way into a range of commercially available foods. They’re still a niche product, but are growing in popularity in the USA, so it’s no surprise Australia is following suit. We’re seeing sprouted grains appear in cereals and granolas, breads, flours, bars, grain-based drinks, even corn chips!

Can I make them myself?
You can. And on the upside, it’s cheaper than buying pre-sprouted grains, but it can be time consuming and fiddly.
D.I.Y sprouted grains:
1.      Rinse grains and place in a jar
2.      Soak the grains in water for 12 to 24 hours. They will expand as they absorb water, so it’s important that grains are completely submerged
3.      Use a sieve with small holes to drain the water completely from the jar, leaving the grains
4.      Rinse your grains twice a day and leave to drain
5.      Depending on the temperature, humidity and type of grain, sprouting should start to occur within three to seven days
6.      When you are happy with the level of sprouting, dry completely in a low oven or dehydrator and refrigerate for 3 days.

Once prepared, they can be used in the same way that you would ordinarily use grains – such as sprouted brown rice in a stir fry, or sprouted quinoa in a salad.      
Note: it’s important to be aware of food safety when it comes to sprouted grains. As they are prepared under moist, humid conditions, sprouted grains also offer an ideal condition for harmful bacteria to grow, so they can pose a risk for food poisoning. As such, the USA’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest children, elderly people, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems should avoid eating sprouted grains.

Are they worth the extra effort/money?
Since the evidence is still emerging, it’s too early to confidently recommend sprouting your grains for the health benefits. But, given sprouted grains offer an interesting and tasty way to enjoy whole grains, there’s nothing to be lost from giving them, and the interesting sprouted grain products on the market a go. Watch this space!

1. The Washington Post, Plant proteins, healthy fats and more 2017 food trends. Accessed 16/11/2017 from:
2. Chavan JK, Kadam SS, Beuchat LR. Nutritional improvement of cereals by sprouting. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 1989;28(5):401-37.
3. Jaenke R, Barzi F, McMahon E, Webster J, Brimecombe J. Consumer acceptance of reformulated food products: A systematic review and meta-analysis of salt-reduced foods. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2017;57(16):3357-72.
4. Mbithi S, Van Camp J, Rodriguez R, Huyghebaert A. Effects of sprouting on nutrient and antinutrient composition of kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris var. Rose coco). European Food Research and Technology. 2001;212(2):188-91.
5. Lorenz K. Cereal sprouts: composition, nutritive value, food applications. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 1980;13(4):353-85.