the high content of lipids and insoluble fiber in regular chia, the
ingredient can be difficult to solubilize in products like juices.
“We developed a product that you can put in hot water, cold
water, oils, dairy products, and it works beautifully. It stays in
suspension,” says Morini. He says that he is currently working with different food companies to fortify their products with
the microfine Anutra. For example, adding 1 g of the product to
chocolate milk would allow a “good source of omega- 3” claim,
and 2 g would allow an “excellent source” claim. “They can put
our product into chocolate milk, and it stays in suspension,” says
Morini. “And suddenly they don’t need to use all these thickeners like carrageenan, locust bean gum, or guar gum.”
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
Many food manufacturers who are hesitating to take the
plunge into chia are worried about potential supply problems.
“Their concern is, is there going to be enough production to
sustain their product line?” says Coates. “With new crops, it’s
always the chicken and egg thing. The producers say, “If we
produce it, who’s going to buy it?’, and the big companies say,
‘If we buy it, are we going to be guaranteed a supply?’” Like all
crops new to the world market, the price of chia can fluctuate
widely based on supply and demand. “You can never really find
out who’s producing it and how much and what’s in storage
right now,” says Coates.
According to Stewart, because Salba chia is a specific culti-
var produced by a single company, it is not subject to the price
fluctuations of regular chia. “Right now there is a shortage of
regular chia, and of course, regular chia prices bounce up and
down quite a bit based on supply and demand,” he says. “One
of the great things about Salba is that its price hasn’t changed
in the last 10 years I’ve been working with it.”
Stewart notes that some large food companies balk at
incorporating chia into their products because it is more
expensive than standard ingredients such as flour, sugar, and
eggs. “A lot of big manufacturers are deathly afraid to pass
along the price increase for healthier products to the con-
sumer,” he says. “But it’s been proven that people will pay
more for healthier choices.”
And at least for know, chia is perceived by consumers as
a healthier choice than most other whole or refined grains.
Whether the nutrient-dense seed lives up to the superfood
hype will depend on results from larger-scale and longer-term
clinical trials of chia’s suspected health benefits.
Laura Cassiday is an associate editor of Inform at AOCS. She
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.