LONDON, ENGLAND — Good grains, including those identified as “ancient grains,” are set to be the leading driver of innovation in the bakery sector in 2012, according to “10 key trends in food, nutrition & health 2012,” a new report from London-based analyst group New Nutrition Business.

According to the report, grains already benefit from a consumer perception of being “all-natural” and healthy, even when they are included in highly-processed foods, such as breakfast cereals. Many grains also benefit from a perception of a natural and intrinsic health benefits — such as the link between oats and heart health.

Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business and author of the trends report, cited the “good grains” message as a key driver behind growth in Kraft Foods’ breakfast biscuit brand, Belvita.

“With Belvita, Kraft has achieved annual sales of €63 million in France since the brand was introduced in 2001, and sales of £21 million in the UK since launch two years ago,” Mellentin said. “This has predominantly come off the back of a marketing positioning that highlights the whole grain content of the product and how this equates to ‘slow release’ energy. It’s a strategy that appears to have succeeded, and Kraft is now gearing up to bring Belvita to the U.S. market in 2012.”

Mellentin also said consumers have shown a willingness to try new and innovative grains.

“There’s been a steady increase in the numbers of products launched based on new and more esoteric grains, such as the so-called ‘ancient grains,’ like amaranth and quinoa,” he said. “People appear to be open to trying these novel grains, just as they are open to trying new fruits and vegetables. This is helpful because differentiating with grains is not easy and alternative grains can provide companies and brands with that much sought-after point of difference.”

Growing evidence supporting grains’ role in maintaining a healthy weight is another factor that positions grains in a positive light.

"This is good news for anyone making foods with a high content of whole grain, products such as dark breads, oats and breakfast cereals,” Mellentin said.

In addition to good grains, the other nine trends identified in the New Nutrition Business report were:

• Naturality
• Energy
• Digestive health
• Feel the benefit
• Weight management
• Movement
• Senior nutrition
• Who needs health claims when you have fruit & vegetables?
• Dairy

“For us, a key trend is one that is very clearly a growth opportunity — a trend that a company can connect to in order to earn additional volumes, additional sales and extra profits,” Mellentin said. “We focus only on those trends that are the underlying key drivers for our industry — not fads or short-term developments with no long-term meaning.

“In 10 Key Trends in Food, Nutrition & Health 2012, we have identified what we think the innovation opportunities are in relation to each trend. Most importantly, a key trend has a connection to consumer needs, it has a foundation of some sort in science, it can be the basis of a successful brand message, and it offers opportunities for genuine innovation. Any product tapping into a trend that meets all of these criteria has a strong chance of success in 2012.”