Read full article By Kylene Scott @ High Plans Journal Photo Credit: Kylene Scott
“It’s not just Mom and hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. You’re conveying the fact that you’re here in the backyard of the U.S. sorghum producers.”
Doug Bice, Sorghum Checkoff market development director, said sorghum is quickly becoming a go-to “super grain” being included in a number of food products available in grocery stores for consumers. The ancient grain is also American grown.
“It’s much more cost effective to buy from your own backyard, as opposed to shipping in and importing other ancient grains,” he said. “There are inherent benefits of using sorghum, especially when all things being equal in a nutrient profile.”
The number of food products in grocery stores is on the rise, and there are many situations where sorghum fits. KIND has a new line of cereals that contain what it calls “super grain flakes” or flakes that contain oats, sorghum, quinoa and amaranth. Four different varieties—dark chocolate almond, honey almond, apple cinnamon and cranberry almond all feature the super grain flakes.
“KIND was one great example of where sorghum fits in quite well,” Bice said. “We’re in Kellogg’s products as well and cereals like Cheerios.”
Another cereal, Grain Berry, is a standalone cereal dedicated to a specific type of sorghum, and according to Bice, it has “wonderful antioxidant properties.”
“So you see sorghum utilized clearly in those applications,” he said. “But really the growth area for sorghum is in areas such as snacks and ready-to-eat type of product lines.”
Most recently Ka Pop brought ancient grains to the public eye when they were featured on the television show Shark Tank in early 2020.
“They’ve done a really well and they’re really moving as a retail space,” Bice said.
RightRice is another example, with sorghum, quinoa and other grains, that’s a healthier alternative to “straight up rice,” Bice said.
“For those of us who grew up with Rice-A-Roni, you know here now we’re getting something ‘with a better nutrient profile,’ and hence why RightRice has been successful in promoting sorghum in that application,” he said.
One of the goals of the Sorghum Checkoff is to promote sorghum and create awareness and a paradigm shift to get sorghum away from just being considered strictly as a commodity and into the consumer market.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and resources on advertising and promotion, doing a lot of trade shows,” Bice said. “A lot of live events where we have chefs, or dieticians that speak on our behalf—in front of different again culinary folks, food service organizations, and let them see sorghum and all its glory.”
The Simply Sorghum website highlights all the applications for sorghum, highlighting three important areas within the food realm—sorghum malts, sprouted sorghum, and waxy sorghums. Bice said the malts are becoming increasingly popular in not only spirits and beverages, but also in meat analogues (plant-based meat substitutes). Sprouted sorghums are in chips, doughs and tortilla formulations.
“Waxy sorghums, which are different in the context of their starch matrix,” Bice said. “We see benefits there from not only taste component, but also processing benefit.”
Waxy sorghum types are a little more cost effective when in the cereal flaking process, even though this is a relatively new phase where sorghum fits in.
“But we’re still working in the old way of finding sorghum grains, sorghum flours, sorghum syrups, popped forms—I mean all kinds of unique applications,” Bice said. “Sorghum really does anything any other grain can do.”
There are also high protein sorghum varieties that should be available commercially in 2021, he said.
“That’s a big improvement to where we are at like 10% to 20% higher protein levels than we have historically for sorghum,” Bice said. “That’s significant especially, when the push is plant based proteins.”
Whether a grower or producer agrees with the applications, Bice believes it’s a possibility of where some of the sorghum could eventually end up.
“Those high protein sorghums are great fit with respect to those market opportunities,” he said.
Sorghum also checks the non-GMO and gluten free boxes, as well as being sustainable. For more information about how sorghum is grown sustainably, Bice suggested visiting www.sorghumcheckoff.com/sorghum-sustains to understand the specifics of the crop.
“The consumer seems to be looking at pretty heavily is sustainability,” he said.
Sorghum can be considered sustainable due to its low water usage, how it fits into land management and the wildlife habitat it provides. Bice also sees how important it is to include sorghum in the food industry.
“Well from, again, the boxes that we checked earlier, as well as the whole grain and ancient grain push that we’re seeing now—there’s been a bigger push, and not only just in consumer but also in school lunch programs right where they’re trying to bring more fiber into the diet or other nutrient components,” he said.
MyPlate recommendations didn’t always historically address fiber and those components that can take care of gut health in the human body.