By Jill Failla
Spurred by changing consumer lifestyles, including gluten-free, Paleo, Ketogenic, low-FODMAP, and raw diets, as well as a variety of allergy-friendly and free-from practices, the shelf-stable flour segment is transforming. Historically filled with a variety of wheat products, this space now extends to ancient grains, gluten-free grains, and many flours that aren’t made from grains at all. Here we examine how the marketplace has shifted as consumers reimagine what it means to cook and bake with flour.
In their heyday, the first gluten-free flours were considered alternative, typically featuring a blend of rice flours, sorghum flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, and guar gum, among other ingredients. But what are the mainstream alternative flour trends today? Applying SPINS’ proprietary Product Type attribute to the SS FLOURS subcategory shows that Nut/Seed Flour sales have declined 56.7% since last year, likely in favor of more specific nut and seed varieties (as opposed to generic blends), such as Almond Flour (up 6.3%). And although often mischaracterized as grains, the seed-based Teff Flour and Buckwheat Flour have also both grown sales 12.5% and 6.8%, respectively.
SPINS’ Product Type attribute also shows that Bean/Lentil Flour sales continue to grow fast at 9.8% over last year, paralleling the greater trend for plant-based, protein-rich pulses. A few other gluten-free flour varieties growing fast in the past year include Corn Masa Flour (+6.4%), Rice Flour (+9.9%), and Tapioca (+10.8%), while tapioca starch’s unrefined root origin, known as Cassava Flour, grew a whopping 471.5%. Though it’s not gluten-free, spelt is an ancient grain that some perceive as healthier than other wheat varieties, which is likely contributing to its 14.4% year-over-year sales growth.
Burgeoning alternative flour trends currently on SPINS’ radar include coffee flour, green banana flour, and cricket flour – all gluten-free. Popular in parts of Africa and the Caribbean, green banana flour can be used as a standalone substitute for wheat flour or in combination with other ingredients depending on textural preference, and it requires a smaller amount of flour (about 25-30% less) in recipes than wheat does. International Agriculture Group debuted two varieties of NuBana green banana flours at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) 2017 conference: one that replaces native starches and the other a pre-gelatinized flour that thickens in cold water and can replace hydrocolloids and stabilize fruit systems.
A byproduct of the dried coffee cherry (the skin and pulp surrounding the coffee bean), coffee flour offers some exciting benefits, from sustainably preventing the coffee cherries from going to waste to a robust nutritious profile. The brand CoffeeFlour (recently featured in SPINS’ Seven Favorite Finds from the Food and Nutrition Conference and Exposition blog post) boasts that, gram per gram, coffee flour has more fiber than other healthy standards like whole grain wheat flour, more iron than spinach, more antioxidants than pomegranates, more protein than kale, and more potassium than bananas. This coffee-byproduct must be combined with another flour and binder, if applicable, for baked goods, and its fibrous composition requires a higher hydration percentage in recipes, as well.
Finally, cricket flours are arguably the most alternative of all the above-mentioned emerging alternative flours, being primarily composed of a protein instead of starches or dietary fibers. As such, this powder must be blended with another flour and binder, if applicable, in baked goods. Crickets are widely discussed as a highly sustainable protein-source, and this flour could appeal to consumers looking to trade out carbs for proteins. (SPINS mentioned insects as part of its 2017 Trend Predictions – stayed tuned for a round-up on those trends plus new predictions for 2018 coming soon on our TrendWatch page!) Innovative companies are also helping expand this ingredient’s applications, from cricket chips to pasta products. Chirps Chips recently secured $100,000 in funding on the TV show “Shark Tank” for its lineup of cricket-flour chips in flavors such as Sea Salt, BBQ, and Cheddar.
Cauliflower Crosses Categories
Made from riced (or very finely grated) cauliflower, which has become a popular addition in both value-added sets of the fresh produce department as well as the frozen aisle, cauliflower pizza crust has been popular with home cooks and bloggers for a while now. The concept has recently made headlines at restaurants and in retail, as a handful of brands offer their versions of ready-to-cook crusts or whole pizzas. And after three years of failed attempts, Cauli Rice debuted a low-carb, preservative-free, and – most interestingly – shelf-stable cauliflower-based alternative to rice earlier this year. Looking ahead, one wonders if broccoli or cauliflower applications can be extended to the shelf-stable flour segment as another innovative alternative to traditional grains.
Only SPINS’ Product Library’s proprietary attribution can provide you with a granular look at the evolving and nuanced health & wellness trends transforming retail today. Want to know more? Contact your SPINS rep or email [email protected] to dig deeper into data on alternative flours and other hot retail topics affecting your business.
SPINSscan Natural and Specialty Gourmet (proprietary), SPINScan Conventional Multi Outlet (powered by IRI), 52 weeks ending 2017-Oct.-08.