Bakers Journal

Ancient grains, new applications

May 17, 2021
By Paula LaBine

Old world wheats for contemporary wellness

In today’s complex world, many consumers desire a return to simplicity as a sign of quality. Artisanal baked goods are coveted for their wholesome, nutritious ingredients and lack of preservatives, as well as their unique flavours, textures and colours. Ancient grains help bakers tick all the boxes for on-trend offerings that appeal to discerning shoppers.

 People also are proactively seeking products with short, recognizable ingredient lists, as well as organic, non-GMO, gluten-free and allergen-free options. 

Additionally, 46 per cent of consumers look for whole grain on an ingredient label when purchasing bread and bakery products. While some people avoid bread or bakery products because they believe they’re unhealthy, artisanal bakers can educate consumers on the natural, wholesome nutrition of ancient grains. The same research indicates people who actively seek out ancient grains have a higher propensity to consume specialty bread and baked goods, like products from craft bakeries. 

Specialty Grains Savvy
Bakers developing new recipes with ancient grains have many varieties to choose from, spanning more mainstream offerings like hemp, quinoa and barley to lesser-known grains like teff, sorghum and amaranth. However, these grains are not an exact replacement for wheat flour. Understanding the technical aspects of each ingredient, such as protein levels, is necessary to uphold the structural integrity of breads and baked goods. Adjustments to the formulation may also be needed to balance flavour and texture and achieve the desired final product.


For example, some ancient grains are gluten free, providing an attractive alternative for people with dietary restrictions. But the lack of gluten can make it difficult for bakers to get a great rise. A blend of grains with other rising solutions and ingredients helps overcome this challenge.

Ancient grains are heralded for their distinctive flavours – rich, nutty, earthy. Yet these strong flavours might overpower certain bakery and snacks. To create consumer-preferred products, bakers can turn to flavour masking and taste modulation solutions.

Many consumers are attracted to the unique visual and textural interest offered by ancient grains, such as the colour of whole grain teff. Take sorghum, for instance. Heartier than many other grains, it also has a more neutral flavour. Sorghum enhances the chewy texture in a variety of applications without affecting taste, contributing to delicious multigrain products.

Consumers love classic baked goods and are now seeking more options to reflect modern tastes. The use of ancient grains can offer differentiation through unique ingredients in mainstream favorites – just enough for a twist on the familiar.

Artisanal Applications
Consumers commonly associate ancient grains with baked goods like snack bars, crackers and breads. 

ADM research indicates that consumers are interested in incorporating ancient grains into other categories, especially if they can deliver “hidden” health benefits as well as great taste. Consumers wished to see more ancient grains in cookies, cakes, donuts, snack bars, breakfast cereals, pizza crusts and much more. 

Batch after batch and loaf after loaf, ancient grains help deliver the delicious nourishment that contemporary consumers desire.

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