ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Chia (Salvia hispanica) has come a long way since its seeds were first used to grow “hair” on terracotta figurines. Today, chia seeds are recognized as a superfood and showing up in all types of applications.

 The seeds are considered energizing ingredients loaded with nutrients, and with a bland, neutral taste profile, chia seeds are suitable for both sweet and savory applications. Nemi Chia, New York, manufacturers of a creamy, spoonable form of chia, highlights six key attributes of the seeds, including:

• Natural energy: With a low-glycemic index, chia may help maintain energy levels, improving stamina and endurance. Chia is also a great way to boost daily iron intake, improving oxygen transport throughout the body to combat fatigue.

• Heart health: One of the highest known plant sources of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), chia also provides 20% of the Daily Value for fiber. Together, the nutrients help reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering “bad” cholesterol and raising “good” cholesterol.

• Fitness fuel: Chia seeds are a source of protein, which helps increase strength and lean muscle growth while promoting recovery after an active workout.

• Weight management: Chia seeds naturally expand in liquid and can promote a sense of fullness. They also are rich in fiber, adding bulk without calories while gently helping digestion.

• Strong bones: Chia seeds provide a unique source of dairy-free calcium, which promotes bone strength in children and helps prevent osteoporosis.

• Illness prevention: Loaded with antioxidants, chia may help protect the body.


Where is chia being used?

Chia as an ingredient is most prevalent in the snacks, cookies and candy category followed by diet and nutrition and cereal, breakfast foods categories, according to New Hope Natural Media’s March 2014 NEXT Trend. Within the snacks, cookies and candy category, other snacks, such as granola-type products, account for 40% of chia-containing products.

NEXT Trend identified the most dominant ingredients appearing with chia across all categories. They are, in descending order: sea salt (found in 46% of all chia-containing products), rice (44%), sunflower (35%), oats (32%) and flaxseed (29%). Further, according to NEXT Trend, one of the natural products industry’s macro trends is ancient wisdom. This is why NEXT Trend predicts that chia will be used as a co-ingredient with ancient grains in upcoming innovations. 

Here are some of the chia-containing products showcased at the Natural Products Expo West, held in early March in Anaheim, Calif.

Kale and chia, two of the hottest superfoods at this year’s Natural Products Expo West, show up together in a number of products. For example, SuperEats L.L.C., New York, introduced a namesake line of non-G.M.O. certified Kale + Chia Chips. In addition to kale and whole chia seeds, the chips include black or navy beans and corn masa. Certified gluten-free, the chips come in five varieties: cheddar, chili lime, ranch, sea salt and tomato basil. A 1-oz serving contains 120 calories, 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber. The chips will hit the marketplace in April in two package sizes: 1.5 oz ($1.50) and 5 oz ($3.99).

Onion Joy joins Kale Joy, a line of snacks from Freshly Wild Super Foods, Portland, Ore. Onions, which are rich in antioxidants, flavonoids and sulfur, and kale, which is loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as minerals, dietary fiber, protein and antioxidants, are first dehydrated using 100% renewable wind energy. The base ingredient is coated with a blend of nuts and seeds, including chia. Each comes in an original flavor, as well as two additional varieties. In the kale line, there’s sweet mustard and mesquite. In the new onion line, there’s herb garden and mesquite barbecue.

Novato, Calif.-based Navitas Naturals introduced Superfoods + Pepitas in a chia rosemary flavor. Pepitas, the culinary term for pumpkin seeds, provide amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and such minerals as calcium, phosphorous, potassium and zinc. They are also a good source of beta-carotene and vitamins B, C, D, E and K. Rosemary is a source of antioxidants. A 1-oz serving contains 170 calories, 13 grams of fat and 9 grams of protein. A 4-oz bag has a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery, Abbotsford, British Columbia, has added Chia Chia Bread to its gluten-free baked goods line. The certified-organic bread starts with whole sorghum and is loaded with whole ground chia seeds. One slice delivers 6 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.

Speaking of bread, what goes better on a slice than chia seeds in a fruit spread application? DBA Interfoods, San Antonio, has introduced World of Chia Fruit Spreads. Sweetened with agave syrup, the spreads come in three fruit flavors: blackberry, raspberry and strawberry. A 10.9-oz jar has a suggested retail price of $5.99. The company also markets a line of raw chia seeds in convenient pourable, recloseable spout flexible packages. The seeds may be added to any food or beverage.

Mamma Chia, Carlsbad, Calif., the organic food and beverage company that established the chia beverage category, now offers Chia Squeeze vitality snacks. This concept provides a new way to enjoy the benefits of chia seeds, combining them with fruits and vegetables into a 70-calorie, anytime snack in an on-the-go 3.5-oz squeeze pouch. The company debuted mango coconut and raspberry varieties at the Natural Products Expo West show, joining the original six-month old line consisting of apple cinnamon, blackberry, Green Magic and strawberry banana.

TRAChealth, Denver, combines the convenience of on-the-go ready-to-mix drink packets with the health benefits of chia. The most recent addition is Chia + Superfoods, which is a blend of super fruits, algae, herbal extracts and healthy greens. The line also includes Chia + Blackberry Hibiscus Green Tea, Chia + Coconut Water and Chia + Strawberry Lemonade. The product is marketed as a supplement, with each stick delivering 60 to 80 calories and 4 to 6 grams of fiber, depending on variety, and 2 grams of protein. Stevia helps keep added-sweetener calories low.

Chia, buckwheat and hemp combine to make new Nature’s Path Qi’a Superfood. The cereal from Nature’s Path Foods, Richmond, British Columbia, comes in three varieties: apple cinnamon, cranberry vanilla and original. It may be served in a bowl with milk, mixed into yogurt, blended into a smoothie and used as a topper on soup or salad. The company also provides recipes that work the cereal into bread, cookies, muffins and more.

Yogurt-maker Alpina Foods, Batavia, N.Y., is expanding its Alpina Greek with Artisan Granola line with pineapple with chia granola. Made with strained Greek nonfat yogurt, the gluten-free granola is a blend of nuts, grains and seeds prepared by Udi’s Healthy Foods L.L.C., Denver.

For those who like chia combined with a creamy base, but prefer it to be dairy free, Nemi Chia is hitting the marketplace this month. Each nutrient-packed, single-serve cup contains chia seeds soaked in a special blend of almond and coconut milk. The namesake New York-based company developed the product to provide an energy boost for on-the-go consumers. The product comes in four varieties: blueberry, original, peach and strawberry. A 5.3-oz container provides 130 to 140 calories and 5 to 7 grams of fat, depending on variety, as well as 2 grams of protein. The suggested retail price is $3.29.

In addition to chia seeds increasingly being used as an ingredient, the sprout form is now marketed in the growing produce department category of micro-greens. Who knew a chia pet could be a window box garden?