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Ancient gluten secret


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By Sameer Shah, Smart Flour Foods

Gluten-free foods are getting a dose of ancient grains as shoppers demand tastier and more nutritious gluten-free choices. 

Sameer-headshot_white-backgroundWhether it is the three million people diagnosed with celiac disease or the 18 million with gluten sensitivity, the widespread demand for products that can be safely enjoyed on a gluten-free diet continues to grow. However, gluten-free consumers have become increasingly discerning when it comes to the taste and nutritional value of the products they purchase. Simply offering a product that does not contain gluten is not cutting it anymore. The result: Ancient grains are coming back with a vengeance.

While the majority of gluten-free grain-alternative products are made of bland-tasting and nutritionally lacking rice and potato, there are a host of other naturally gluten-free ancient grains that allow consumers to reap the health benefits of whole grains. Unchanged for a millennia, these nutritional powerhouses are changing the makeup of the gluten-free market. From cereal and waffles, to bread, pasta and pizza, manufacturers are using ancient grains to deliver tastier and more nutritious alternatives to gluten-free shoppers. Sorghum, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, millet and quinoa, for example, are completely safe for those who have adopted a gluten-free diet. These less commonly used ancient grains are easy to digest, simple to prepare, possess delicious taste and tout exceptional nutritional profiles.

According to new data from SPINS, sales of unrefined grains are booming, and we are experiencing a revolution in the way we eat grains. Most noteworthy is that sales of amaranth have grown 123%, while teff has grown 58%. Amaranth, called a “protein powerhouse” by the Whole Grains Council, is high in protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and is the only grain documented to contain Vitamin C. Teff trumps all others in its calcium content. This tiny grain is also high in a type of dietary fiber that supports blood-sugar management, weight control and colon health.

Amaranth and teff, along with hearty and healthful sorghum, are featured in the flour of our trend-setting pizza brand, Smart Flour Foods. Originally providing the crust for popular gluten-free pizza served at restaurants across the country, we have created a retail line-up of frozen pizza and crust made with ancient grains. Our line features an enhanced nutritional profile compared to its rice-based counterparts and cooks up nice and crispy with the delicious texture and flavor of whole wheat. Consumer Reports’ taste testers gave it a “thumbs up” and we plan on expanding our product lineup to extend the benefit of ancient grains to additional food choices as well.

When it comes to the taste and quality nutrition consumers deserve and we are in a position to offer, bringing whole grain value to gluten-free convenience is our way to push this category forward. To quote Consumer Reports from their recent article on gluten-free foods, “the biggest trend in the food world shows no signs of slowing down.” The gluten-free diet may have taken off as a trend, but because it stems from a serious health problem and offers a remedy to digestion issues that surface when wheat, barley or rye are consumed, this diet phenomenon is not going anywhere. In fact, the category and its consumers are evolving. Now it is our job to keep up with them. 

Sameer Shah is the vice president of marketing at Smart Flour Foods. He can be reached at sameer@smartflourfoods.com.

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