What are the biggest future trends you’re seeing emerging among your bakery and cereal maker customers?
Health and wellbeing are still key trends within both bakery and cereal products. Digestive and heart health remain key but since Covid-19 consumers are now looking for foods that will help boost immunity and are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Foods that have mental and spiritual benefits are also increasing in importance. Covid-19 has made people more conscious about what they are consuming. Transparency through the food chain from field to fork is going to be particularly important. Clean and clear labels with ingredients that are easily recognised will help give confidence in products. Plant based foods will also continue to grow with consumers seeing these not just as a healthy contribution to their diet but also a more sustainable source of nutrients.
An increasing number of consumers are turning to the nutritional powerhouses of seeds and grains. Which lesser known varieties do you think will be the next big market trends?
Consumers are becoming more aware of the nutritional benefits of seeds and grains, whether it be through their contribution to fibre, protein, healthy unsaturated fats, vitamins or minerals in the diet. Some of the lesser known grains that we are seeing emerge are Fonio, Teff and Sorghum, but it’s key that these grains can be obtained from ethical, sustainable food grade sources, which can have an impact on initial availability.
Sprouted grains are also increasing in popularity as they are natural, nutritious and healthy. Evidence suggests that sprouted grains are nutritionally superior as the sprouting process releases more of the nutrients from the grains. Although it’s well known that oats contain the soluble fibre Beta-Glucan, with health benefits linked to heart and digestive health, fewer consumers know that barley is also a source of Beta-Glucan. Waxy barley varieties can be used to produce flours with high Beta-Glucan levels, which could bring barley on trend when it comes to health and familiarity among consumers.
In terms of what’s new in seeds, the latest interest we are seeing in baked good is around Hemp seeds, Black Sesame seeds and Watermelon seeds.
There are fears that, from 2021, the UK will be facing food shortages. Can domestic yields of British cereals feed the nation?
This is not just about looking at the total harvest volume, it’s also about the quality of the harvest.
Wheat production has dropped by 38% in 2020. The immediate effect of this will be a lower volume available for export, and it is predicted that there will be very little wheat exports in the 2020/21 season. However, because of poorer quality wheat, it is expected that imports of wheat for milling flour will double in 2020/21.
In contrast, a strong 2019 barley harvest has been improved upon in 2020, so there is plenty of grain available to feed the nation. It is forecast that barely exports - Brexit tariffs permitting - will be at circa 25% of the total barley harvested.
Moreover, are there any flours, grain and seeds that might experience shortages in post-Brexit Britain?
In the short term, there could be some shortages. This won’t be due to harvest volumes, but because of Brexit. As things stand, we don’t know what delays we may see for goods coming into the country as supply chains, already stretched by COVID, must contend with the additional burden of custom documentation and procedures.
Despite the impact of adverse weather conditions, the barely market looks set to grow in 2021. What’s driving this growth?
With both Brexit and COVID, it’s not yet 100% clear how 2021 will pan out.
Harvest volumes are up, but if tariffs are imposed export volumes will drop and farmers will look to offload more grain into the domestic market. COVID has impacted large parts of the hospitality sector, which has seen a drop in demand for barley from maltsters.
A poor wheat harvest has seen an increased demand for barley from animal feed producers, and the pressures from Brexit and COVID have favoured barley pricing, with the price differential to wheat bigger than normal.
What is clear, however, is that while trends come and go, barley has flown relatively under the radar. It has many nutritional benefits, and is often overlooked as a cost-effective alternative to other grains.
The insoluble and soluble fibres in barley help transport food through the digestive system, and the soluble fibres are a pre-biotic, promoting the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut. Barley is also a rich source of the soluble fibre, Beta Glucan, which has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol, a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease, when at least 3g a day is consumed.
In its wholegrain form, barley is high in fibre, and swapping oats for barley in breakfast cereals can help increase fibre content, reduce fat and reduce cost. A super food, and maybe in 2021 more than ever, without the super price tag.
This article originally appearred in the January 2021 issue of Food & Drink International.