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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Right Now: Quinoa and Pulse Flours

We’re Keen On Quinoa

The Incans called quinoa “chisaya mama,” which means “The Mother of All Grains.” Although technically this protein-packed ancient grain is a seed, it’s not hard to see why quinoa is appreciated: It’s gluten-free, high in magnesium and iron and contains all nine essential amino acids.

“Quinoa flour is an airy, light flour that translates well into cakes or muffins,” says Firebird’s Chris Krenzel. “It’s also got a mild, slightly nutty flavor that is a good foundation for baking applications.”

Pulse Power

Recognizing this ingredient’s potential, Firebird Artisan Mills has been working with pulses for nearly a decade. “Not only are pulses a good source of protein,” says Krenzel, “they’re also high in antioxidants, an excellent source of fiber, and chock full of good things like iron and potassium.” According to the Global Pulse Confederation, one cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat and 16 grams of fiber.

“Growers love pulses because they’re resilient and don’t need much in the way of fertilizer or irrigation. We love them because they’re mild-flavored, versatile and pack a nutritious punch. They work in everything from pasta and flour blends to snack bars and cereals,” added Krenzel.

Contact us for spec sheets or samples of Firebird’s quinoa or pulse flours today.


Make Plans Now to Visit Firebird in Anaheim

The Firebird team is ready to get to work at Engredea/Natural Expo West in Anaheim.

When you’re at the Anaheim Convention Center, plan to pay a visit to Hall A, Booth 383 and let Chris or Jason know how Firebird can help you with your gluten-free, organic, ancient grain or pulse project.

Plus, be sure to mark your calendar for Friday, March 10, 6-8 p.m., and attend our annual networking event at Morton’s Steakhouse Anaheim. RSVP here.

Industry News

Click the links below for a look at some of the stories we’re watching.

American snacking trends have room to grow.

What’s new at the Winter Fancy Food Show?



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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Firebird Artisan Mills Partnership is Part of Bakery’s Recipe for Success

MyBread Gluten Free Bakery was a small shop in 2013, a one-man artisanal bakery with a singular vision: to provide a delicious, versatile, gluten-free bread alternative.

In 2011, founder Dan Gallagher and his mom refined a recipe for a gluten-free flatbread that celiac sufferers could use for anything from pizza to sandwich buns.

That’s where his relationship with Firebird Artisan Mills Director of sales Chris Krenzel came in. “I was baking in the evening and selling in the morning, trying to get off the ground, and Chris was extremely supportive from the beginning,” Gallagher said. “His industry knowledge, from pricing to blending to sourcing, made a huge difference for me as a small business owner.”

At the outset, MyBread sourced 10 to 12 bags of flour through Firebird and blended onsite. As the business grew and Gallagher had more orders to fill, he began ordering by the pallet. Then he learned that Firebird is a full-service mill with custom blending, retail and bulk packaging capabilities.

“Chris showed me how Firebird could help with custom blending – ultimately saving time and cost, and keeping the product consistent. Everybody says they want to partner,” he added. “But Firebird truly is a phenomenal strategic partner. Their safety and operations standards, their response times – everyone on the team makes you feel like your success is their priority.”

MyBread’s success is even more important because, as the company continues to grow, Gallagher actively gives back to the Chicago community. MyBread participates in the Empowerment program, a work-rehabilitation opportunity for nonviolent, nonsexual offenders.

“I think when we have the chance to help people, give them another chance to succeed, that’s the right thing to do,” Gallagher said. “We’ve seen a lot of success with it, and I’m glad to be in a position to create jobs and training in the city.”

Related Stories from Industry Friends 

Suppliers and stores need to work together to make natural and organic accessible

Non-GMO poised for growth – and other highlights from the Fancy Food Show here

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