Will wheatgrass be the next 'it' ingredient?

by Keith Nunes
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Bolthouse Farms'  Daily Greens juice and Daily Greens' Chocolate Organic Hemp Milk both employ wheatgrass in their formulas.

DUIVEN, THE NETHERLANDS — Many non-traditional food and beverage ingredients have taken a turn in the product development spotlight. They range from acai, chia and coconut water to quinoa and kale. Now there is evidence it may be wheatgrass’ turn.

Long a staple on the shelves of health food stores, wheatgrass is increasingly being used as an ingredient in food and beverages as well as supplements, according to the market research firm Innova Market Insights.

“Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation at Innova Market Insights. “It can be traced back in history for thousands of years and is associated with a raft of health benefits through supplemental nutrition to unique curative properties. Virtually all of these claims remain scientifically unproven, although it is recognized as a good source of potassium, dietary fiber and a range of vitamins and minerals.”

Data from Innova Market Insights shows that global launches of food and beverage products featuring wheatgrass as an ingredient saw a double-digit increase in the 12 months between February 2014 and February 2015. Europe and North America had the highest launch numbers over the past year, with Europe accounting for 55% of the total and North America over 33%. The leading markets were the United Kingdom and the United States.

Innova noted that a significant portion of growth has occurred in food and beverage introductions, which accounted for 40% of launches featuring wheatgrass, vs. supplements. Beverages, primarily juice drinks and smoothies, accounted for half of the total, with some activity also evident in snacks, ready meals and dairy beverages, according to the market research firm.

In terms of beverage launches, there has been a range of activity from both specialist health companies and more mainstream operators. In the United States, Bolthouse Farms, a Campbell Soup Co. business unit, launched a wheatgrass drink in early 2014 with its Daily Greens juice featuring green vegetables such as kale, spinach, cucumbers and romaine lettuce, as well as wheatgrass. Following on, specialist company Daily Greens extended its range with Replenish organic and cold-pressed Chocolate Organic Hemp Milk infused with wheatgrass and cocoa.

In the United Kingdom, smoothies market leader Innocent successfully launched a range of three functional-style Super Smoothies, including one featuring wheatgrass, along with kiwi, lime, flax seeds, vitamins and selenium.

While launch numbers for wheatgrass products were relatively low in Australia and New Zealand overall, there were some innovative applications in dairy beverages, led by The Collective Dairy’s Green Machine Yoghurt Smoothie with kiwi, feijoa and spirulina, as well as wheatgrass. It has now also been launched in the United Kingdom.
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