Despite its many nutritional benefits, it may be a difficult time for wheat germ, given the current public opinion on wheat and gluten. Wheat germ is the nutritional powerhouse of wheat, but despite its rich nutritional profile, it is often overlooked as a superfood.

In the UK, bread appears to suffer from a relatively poor health image, even among users: 48% think that bread is not a good option for those trying to lose weight, while 44% state that other breakfast options are healthier than bread/baked goods. In the US, 47% of US consumers who eat gluten-free foods do so because they think gluten is bad for them.

Globally, less than 1% of food and drink products launched between 2010 and mid-June 2014 used wheat germ as an ingredient. The majority of launches of wheat germ as an ingredient have occurred in Europe, accounting for 46% of launches between 2010 and mid-June 2014.

Within the food and drink categories, use of wheat germ as an ingredient is primarily in the bakery category accounting for 37% of launches between 2010 to mid-June 2014. Breakfast cereal is also a common category for wheat germ to be used, accounting for 26% of food and drink launches during that time period.

However, looking at the penetration of wheat germ in the categories where this ingredient is most commonly used, use of wheat germ is relatively low across categories. Additionally, use of wheat germ is decreasing in its key categories. In breakfast cereals, use of wheat germ as an ingredient has decreased from 5% of global breakfast cereal launches in 2010 to 3% in 2014 as of mid-June.

As fears over gluten continue to grow, wheat germ will need to promote its nutritional benefits and health benefits to attract consumers. Although only 1% of breakfast cereals launched in 2014 as of mid-June used a gluten-free claim, 46% of US cereal consumers would be interested in more gluten-free options, suggesting a difficult time ahead for increasing wheat-germ in breakfast cereals. However, 80% of US breakfast consumers are interested in vitamin or nutrient-enriched options and 70% are interested in cereal with a superfood ingredient, which could make wheat germ an appealing ingredient in breakfast cereals if the nutritional benefits were highlighted.

Wheat germ should follow the lead of other ancient grains, like kamut, freekeh, and barley, by promoting its nutrient density. Focusing on the energy benefits of magnesium and B vitamins could help make wheat germ more relevant to consumers, especially as 62% of Americans agree they are trying to eat healthier foods this year.

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Stephanie Pauk is a global food science analyst at Mintel. She is enthusiastic to share her food science insights and offer a technical perspective on various topics related to the food industry.

 

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