The Enduring Appeal of Ancient Grains

In a Packaged Facts survey, about a fifth of American adults say they’ve recently bought ancient grain items off of a menu or grocery store shelf. So what are ancient grains and what’s the appeal?

Ancient grains are a group of grains, pseudograins and pseudocereals that have remained unchanged over the last several hundred (if not thousands of) years. Most of the ancient grains are gluten-free. Those include amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, and teff.

Mass-produced products are often easier to grow and mill, and they’re usually a little more impervious to insects. But they also contain lower nutritive value and tend to be over-refined.

Ancient grain products, as a group, are higher in protein and fiber than their modern counterparts.

Amaranth crops

At seven to 16 percent, grains are a good source of protein. This is often overlooked despite the fact that grains are the main source of protein for most people in developing countries.

Also found in ancient grains? High values of B-group vitamins, and minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. Plus a variety of interesting flavor profiles.

Highly nutritious and packed with flavor, it’s no wonder that ancient grains are in virtually every grocery category in the United States. Have you incorporated ancient grains into your formulations? Tell us what’s worked for you in the comments below.

If you’re interested in sampling any of our ancient grain products, contact us today to get started.

Our Favorite Experiences at Engredea/Natural Products Expo West

We asked the Firebird team on the ground in Anaheim what stood out to them the most from this year’s event.

Our friends at Tailormade Foods stopped by to celebrate their success.

Chris Krenzel, Sales: Connecting with our customers is my favorite part of the job, and at events like these it’s always incredible to see our customers and celebrate their successes with them.

Travis Greene, Procurement: Walking the floor, there’s a palpable feeling of excitement and energy. I enjoyed seeing the new products and talking with people about ways they are innovating.

Chris Cairo, VP: The Natural Products Expo is a good event for us all around, but I think what stands out for me is the quality of conversations we have at our after-hours networking event at Morton’s. This year not only did we have a great turnout, we had some insightful, productive talks. Those were the highlights of the week for me.

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Particle Size Matters in Baking Applications

For as much discussion as there is about getting the right flour mix for the right application, there could be as much discussion about particle size and its importance to a recipe’s performance. Just as you wouldn’t use a cake mix as the base for a pizza crust formulation, applications that need a more elastic dough and lighter texture call for a flour with a smaller particle size.

In wheat-based flours, gluten serves four functions: binding, structure, elasticity and water absorption. Other protein molecules within the wheat itself act as a natural boost to the gluten and help facilitate each of these functions. When gluten proteins interact with water, that creates an elastic dough that typically reacts well to leavening agents and yields a uniformly light, fluffy baked product.

Poor water absorption by gluten-free flours of the past have delivered flat, dense products with a sandy texture. For some bakers, adding liquid, supplementing starch or gum in the mix and providing additional resting time for the dough solves the issue. But for many, these accommodations aren’t enough.

Reducing granulation size creates additional surface space on the grain particle, which allows more water to interact with the natural proteins of gluten-free grains. If you use a coarsely ground flour with a recipe intended to produce a delicate cake, you will likely not get the results you want, particularly if your flour has a high protein content. Flours with higher protein content will absorb more water, so a fine flour with a high protein content needs additional liquid in the recipe.

When you’re looking for a super-fine ground flour, Firebird’s talcum-like super-fine granulation gives you a blend that delivers texture without the grit. Try a sample for yourself, and call us with any questions.

Make Plans Now to Visit Firebird at Engredea/Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim

We’re already looking forward to springtime in Anaheim. Visit with us at booth 383 at Engredea/Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim March 8-10. Be sure to watch this space for more information about our networking event at Morton’s Steakhouse Anaheim. We look forward to connecting with colleagues, meeting new people, and catching up with customers.

If you can’t make it to the shows, connect with us at 701-324-4330 or email your sales representative.

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March Madness 2016: SoCal IFT, Engredea and Natural Products Expo West Recap

Think the only excitement that happened in March was on the basketball court? Think again. The Firebird team found plenty of energy and innovation in Anaheim at the Southern California IFT Supplier Expo and Engredea/Natural Products Expo West.

The fellas from Firebird enjoyed a fantastic few days in Anaheim at the Southern California IFT Supplier Expo and Engredea/Natural Products Expo West. Read on for a few of the interesting highlights, trends and tidbits the team found.

Bonkers for Garbanzos and Lentils

These little legumes were popping up everywhere, from baking mixes to savory snacks. According to Packaged Facts, U.S. consumers are giving plant-based protein sources an enthusiastic look, which means the protein-packed pulses are experiencing a rejuvenation during this Year of the Pulse.

One of our favorite new garbanzo products was Banza Pasta, a garbanzo-based pasta that has the flavor and texture of traditional pasta, plus fiber and protein.

We were also fans of Saffron Road’s lentil chips and crackers. These savory snacks are based on a lentil and garbanzo flour, which gives them plenty of protein and lots of crunch.

As a dedicated allergen-free mill, Firebird is very familiar with processing both garbanzos and lentils. We were very excited to see these products fare so well at the show.

Soft-Baked Gluten-Free Goodies

Not too many years ago, wheat-sensitive or celiac consumers who craved a soft, fresh chocolate-chip cookie were out of luck. Texture can make or break a new gluten-free product, and these Enjoy Life soft-baked cookies deliver the chewy goodness cookie lovers crave.


We saw a lot of companies focusing on nutrient-dense ingredients and superfoods. Since our plant is dedicated to allergen-free ingredients, most of which are nutrient-dense ancient grains, we remain encouraged by this trend.

As always, the Natural Products Expo was chock-full of innovations to explore, and we love connecting with new friends and long-time partners alike. If you didn’t make it over to see us at the booth this year, we hope you’ll find us at some of the other shows coming up — or give us a call!

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Catch up with Firebird at our upcoming events