Current cereal and grain crops, in particular common wheat, may not be well suited to meet the challenges we face in feeding a growing population in a changing and more volatile climate. Alternative grains, like pseudocereals, perennial grains, ancient grains, and pulses, offer new solutions to these challenges. In this issue of Cereal Foods World (CFW), we explore various facets of alternative grains, from breeding to processing, along with consumer tastes and perceptions. We also delve into the practical aspects of how to incorporate these grains into mainstream food systems that can feed and nourish a growing world population.
High-yield crops with nutrient-dense properties will be required to feed a projected world population of 9 billion by 2050. Increasingly sophisticated consumers are seeking foods that are good for them, good for their communities, and good for the planet. They are demanding lower fat, higher fiber, higher protein, and plant-based food solutions that are tasty and easy to prepare.
As climate changes alter growing conditions, resilient crops that can survive temperature extremes, droughts, and flooding will be needed. Cereal scientists need to understand how alternative grains will weather harsh growing conditions and how they can be used to create nutritious foods that appeal to global and regional food preferences.
In this issue of CFW, the authors shine a light on alternative grains, including perennial grains, pseudocereals, ancient grains, pulses, and small grains, that are gaining attention in the marketplace. It serves as a primer on alternatives grains by featuring fundamentals, like definitions, breeding techniques, nutritional characteristics, processing technologies, and consumer perceptions.
In their Feature article, “Rediscovering Ancient Wheats,” Sabrina Geisslitz and Katharina Scherf look at how ancient varieties of wheat can present new opportunities for farmers, millers, bakers, and consumers. Specialty products made from ancient wheats provide good taste, as well as health benefits and nutrients. Many of these products also address consumer demands for foods produced locally using organic agriculture.
Research on food processing and utilizing pseudocereals also has intensified. In their Feature article, Regine Schoenlechner and Denisse Bender discuss the growing consumer interest in and availability of food products made with pseudocereals. In his review, Matt Nosworthy delves into how protein quality in pulses is assessed, as well as how different processing methods and genetic solutions can be used to enhance the bioavailability of protein amino acids in pulses.
In considering the Global Food System, the exploitation and development of perennial crops should not be neglected. In the context of promoting novel crops with enhanced ecosystem services, Catrin Tyl and her coauthors provide an overview on recent breeding efforts and strategies to improve the use of perennial crops in food products.
The Issues and Trends articles include two application articles that explore how alternative grains can provide new marketplace solutions. In the first article, José Francisco dos Santos Silveira Junior and Alicia de Francisco look at the potential uses of alternative plant foods as ecofriendly sources of starch. In the second article, Dilek Uzunalioglu examines the challenges and opportunities encountered in formulating products with pulse ingredients.
Stefanie Havemeier and Joanne Slavin wrap-up the issue with a discussion of the nutrition implications of diets rich in pulses and legumes. Their perspective on this hot topic improves our understanding of how pulses can contribute to feeding and nourishing the world.
Alternative grains that have a marginal impact on the environment offer promising solutions to the competing challenges of feeding more people with diminishing resources in a chaotic environment. Consumer acceptance is key, and right now, consumers are intrigued by these alternative grains. For perennial grains, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, pulses, and ancient grains to find their way into mainstream food products, we need to turn them into food solutions that deliver on consumer expectations for taste, health benefits, convenience, and portability.
The business of feeding the people is the most amazing business in the world.