About a month ago, I was able to travel to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Canada), to visit a quinoa field and learn more about quinoa in the industry. Although I've been to Canada many times—I live in a suburb of Detroit, so I'm only about a 20-30 minute drive from the Ontario border—I had never been to Saskatoon before, so I was quite interested to visit and also see quinoa in its "natural habitat."
Quinoa has had 72 percent average annual growth since 2012; its growth slowed to 23 percent in 2016, but that's still a high amount in a small period of time. For the 52 weeks ending on 7/30/16, snack bars had $113.6 million in sales, followed by bagged/boxed quinoa, at $79.6M, and RTE cereal, at $69.7M. Tortilla chips with quinoa in it also pulled in $35.9M.
Ardent Mills, who invited me on this trip, makes six different types of quinoa: whole seeds, whole grain flour, flakes, crisps, multigrain blends and mixes, and quinoa and rice blends. We sampled a lot of quinoa dishes on the trip, ranging from quinoa "sushi" (cucumber outside, quinoa mix inside), to mini quinoa pizzas, to cheesecake made with a quinoa crust, and I enjoyed most of the dishes I tried. The quinoa crisps, in particular, are intriguing—they provide more of a "crunch" than the seeds do.
Quinoa pizza crusts are gaining steam, too—I'm not sure if the mini pizzas we had were made with a quinoa crust, but it had quinoa as an ingredient, and was delicious, albeit spicy.
I'll confess that quinoa is a food that I enjoy, but don't have the opportunity to eat very often. A quick search on the SFWB site shows that snack and bakery innovators are definitely using quinoa in their snacks nowadays, but it's perhaps still not a household word as of yet. The Daily Crave introduced quinoa chips in April of this year, and that is the one of the most recent new product post we have for the grain, though Mediterra also released nutrition bars that include quinoa in May.
Ardent Mills compiled a list for us of restaurants that use quinoa in their dishes, and the list was surprising: Hard Rock Cafe released a Pico de Gallo Quinoa Arugula Salad in October 2016, which includes a "fresh mix of pico de gallo, quinoa, lime juice and chopped cilantro, mixed with arugula." That same month, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse released "The Super Salad," which is "packed with antioxidant ingredients," including Peruvian quinoa.
It's possible, then, that quinoa will start showing up on more menus and store shelves in the near future—and it's an ingredient that manufacturers should start perusing for ideas for their next snack or bakery items.