Could ancient grains einkorn and emmer encapsulate current trends?

British supplier Cragg & Co predict these varieties could become as popular as spelt.

14 August 2019
Einkorn bread
image credit: Getty Images

Ancient grains from amaranth to sorghum have been gracing new products – particularly in the last year – but there’s a whole load of other varieties that are yet to be fully uncovered.

Two were highlighted by Kerry Foods last year with the potential of becoming a big deal – einkorn and emmer. Now British supplier Craggs & Co has launched both to market, with the added benefit that they are grown over here.

Einkorn is thought to be one of the most ancient wheat varieties available today and some studies show that compared to modern wheat it is higher in protein, phosphorus, potassium and beta-carotene.

With emmer, it was one of the first cereals to be domesticated and was served as a daily ration to the Roman legions.

Both will be offered in a number of formats from grain to flour, pearled, kibbled and flaked.

A win for NPD

Kate White, head of product development at Craggs & Co, says health conscious consumers are looking for products that are high in protein and fibre, alongside a story on provenance. The added bonus is they are prepared to pay a premium for these types of products.

“The einkorn and emmer has followed requests from bakers and we offer a 1kg product for retail and a 20kg bag for barkers and ingredients companies,” she tells Food Spark. “The bakers had requested the ancient grains as it ties in nicely with sourdough and it’s related to gut health and there’s more demand for them.”

Provenance is something that could be even more widespread after Brexit with an IDG survey finding 45% of UK adults believe it is important to buy British after leaving the EU. Cragg & Co says it’s the only UK commercial producer of 100% British ancient grains products.

But providing British grains is also a win for pricing and quality which otherwise fluctuates with imported goods, explains White.

“A lot of larger scale bakeries are doing a lot of NPD but if the ingredient price was fluctuating it was hard for them to launch the product,” she says. “What we can do being British is we have stabilised that price, so it makes it easier for the NPD teams to develop those products to launch, but it also works from a traceability and provenance perspective. We grow it on 2,000 acre farm and have numerous assured farmers.”

Some in the industry have already been experimenting with the grains. Gail’s recently added an einkorn and whey sourdough loaf to its line-up, while London-based Paul Rhodes Bakery released a salted emmer loaf for its Mastercrafted range last month, which consisted of a slowly fermented and slightly yeasted round loaf made using emmer and extra virgin olive oil.

A cross category ingredient

Bakers might be beating down the doors for these unfamiliar grains – but White says they have a range of other applications from soups to salads, cereals, pasta and microwavable pouches.

In fact, she predicts emmer and einkorn will go down the popularity path that spelt has already trodden.

“Spelt is pretty much used in most categories so ready-to-eat pouches, baby food, pet food, it’s in the in-store bakery section and that’s increased really just in the last two years,” she comments.

“I know when I started here and looked at Ocado it had less than a handful or products with spelt, whereas now there is nearly 100 products where it’s used as an ingredient and that’s only going to continue to increase. Einkorn and emmer are only going to follow suit.”

Can Sparkie see consumers eating up einkorn and emmer?


Sparkie says:

One of the big draws of ancient grains was that they tended to be gluten-free. As these are both forms of wheat these are unlikely to have the same kind of draw. Although there are some discussions suggesting that einkorn may lack some of the allergenic proteins, I can’t see people who are gluten-free risking it.

They will be able to be marketed to people who want a flour with some more nutritional value but that is really the limit. For bakeries it seems that both of these function considerably different compared to regular wheat so product development may take longer, but it could result in a positive selling point that hasn’t really been exploited yet. 

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