Ancient grains provide heartiness and health that consumers crave

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As consumer trends skew toward healthy options and better-for-you snacks and meals, both commercial and noncommercial eateries are working to include nutritious foods on the menus. Thinking beyond typical “health foods” like veggie bowls or salads, operators are looking to things like plant-based foods, free-from items and superfoods, all of which offer health beyond standard “low calorie” claims. For instance, quinoa has grown on noncommercial menus by nearly 14% over the past five years, according to Ignite Menu Data, while farro has grown 7% over the same time period. What’s more, these grains have grown significantly faster in the noncommercial world—in the same five years, quinoa has only grown 1.5% on commercial menus, while farro has grown just 0.2%.

As for the difference in growth, that could be thanks to noncommercial foodservice facilities serving people in a more utilitarian sense, rather than an indulgent sense—that is, customers patronizing a hospital cafeteria may be interested in different types of foods than, say, a couple going out for date night at a hot new restaurant in town. But whatever the reason, the facts are that ancient grains have staked their place on noncommercial menus—and operators are working hard to add more dishes featuring them.

High protein, plant-forward foods

Ancient grains fit perfectly in plant-based bowl meals, like grain bowls topped with plenty of veggies. And those bowl meals are perfect for the 84% of consumers who, according to Technomic’s 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, think dishes containing a fuller serving of vegetables are slightly or much more healthy. What’s more, for the 71% of consumers who think dishes high in protein are healthier, quinoa and farro are a perfect choice, too, as farro contains more protein than brown rice at 3.5 grams per half-cup serving, while a half-cup serving of quinoa has about four grams of protein.

All-day eats

Ancient grains are a versatile ingredient and are being used in dishes across dayparts. For example, at the University of Maryland, students can start their day with Cinnamon Berry Quinoa, while students at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., can dine on Broccoli Quinoa Salad. Ancient grains are also being incorporated in tasty entrees. For instance, Samsung features Caribbean Mango with Jerk Shrimp on its menu, while MetLife offers a Salmon, Apple and Farro Salad.

Global-inspired flavors

Global flavors and unique ingredients lend well to dishes made with ancient grains. Since rice is such a common and prolific part of many of the world’s cuisines, simply swapping ancient grains in for rice means diners can try foods of the world with an added protein boost. For example, at Rutgers University, diners can fill up on Green Curry Tofu and Quinoa, while diners at California State University – Northridge can enjoy the Red Pepper and Cilantro Quinoa Saute.

By incorporating ancient grains onto noncommercial menus, operators can appeal to diners looking for high protein, healthy options, plant-based dishes and global foods alike. With a simple swap of rice to ancient grains, operators can give the menu a facelift while giving customers what they’re looking for.

This post is sponsored by Furmano’s