Consumers may not know what ancient grains are, but they like the idea of them. They sound like they'd be healthy, right?
The Wall Street Journal reports Golden Valley-based General Mills is preparing to go against the grain on the company's old standby. Cheerios Ancient Grains, made with quinoa, oats, and two wheat varieties – spelt and Kamut – will hit the market early next year.
The story revealed that while "many shoppers don’t know exactly what an ancient grain is," General Mills points to market research that shows customers "equate the words alone with healthy, simple, nutrient dense food." The article goes on to note that “ancient grain” is a marketing term that refers to grains that have been eaten for centuries, but are rare, obscure or not common in mass food production.
General Mills isn't the only food company to get on the ancient grains bandwagon. Citing research data from Nielsen, a General Mills spokesman told the Journal that "the number of foods that use the words ‘ancient grains’ on packaging rose 50 percent this year compared to last."
The Journal looked at the nutrition data associated with Cheerios Ancient Grains, and found the updated cereal isn’t any more nutritious. Regular Cheerios contain 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of sugar per serving. The ancient grain version has 2 grams of fiber and 5 grams of sugar. Each has 3 grams of protein per serving.
Earlier this month, the San Jose Mercury News described ancient grains and seeds as growing in popularity, making them a "smart choice for anyone craving authentic flavors while capitalizing on their health benefits."
Quinoa has gone mainstream. Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times published a story on new test offerings at the 7-Eleven convenience store chain, which includes a quinoa salad that could accompany a Slurpee. Meanwhile, the Washington Post offered its readers a long story on the culinary delights and nutritional benefits of the ancient grain, farro. The story noted the tiny, golden-brown grain that resembles brown rice is "juicier than quinoa and so nutty that it can do double duty in a salad, offering flavor as well as heft."