Teff: an age-old cereal with growing success

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It’s three thousand years and counting that teff has been grown in Africa. In Ethiopia, the main country of production, this cereal from the same family as millet is a staple used in particular to make injera, a flatbread eaten at nearly every meal, but also alcoholic drinks and beer. 

On its own, “teff accounts for two thirds of the protein intake of Ethiopians,” says the FAO. It must be said that this ancient cereal offers a wide array of benefits. 

Teff and its Western expansion

Naturellement sans gluten et riche en fibres, minéraux et protéines, le teff a d’ailleurs fini par séduire en-dehors des frontières africaines. D’abord réservé à un public connaisseur attiré par les produits bio et les alternatives au gluten, le teff a su gagner progressivement une plus large audience en Occident. Et convaincre plusieurs industriels de miser sur cette céréale ancestrale pour innover.

Vitagermine has added teff seeds to its Vitabio products.

Vitagermine has added teff seeds to its Vitabio products.

In particular, “this high-fibre ancient African cereal offers a combination of exoticism and health benefits,” as Protéines XTC noted in its Global Innovation Report in 2019. Teff thus offers the means of activating several levers to create new on-trend products.

An illustration can be found in the example of the French manufacturer Vitagermine with its range of Vitabio pouches for adults. It added teff grains to its pineapple, passion fruit, coconut and cereal recipe, incidentally pointing out that this small grain has “a sweet hazelnut and slightly chocolaty flavour.”

The health benefits of teff

The popularity of teff can quite naturally be attributed to its nutritional benefits. Indeed, this cereal is a good source of plant protein, but also of calcium and iron. As a result, it is a perfect choice for vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians in search of animal protein alternatives in their diet.

Lovegrass pasta is made from 100% Teff flour

Lovegrass pasta is made from 100% Teff flour

Since it does not contain any gluten, teff is moreover an attractive option for the gluten-intolerant. Teff flour is used to make biscuits suitable for this consumer segment. ValpiForm, working under the ValpBio brand, launched choc chip shortbreads, made with teff flour and guaranteed gluten free.

Teff can also replace gluten in pasta formulae. This is what the manufacturer The Lovegrass did with its “100% teff fusilli” which also bear the gluten-free label. The Italian firm Molino Spadoni SPA did the same with teff flour pasta. Both these products made an impression on the SIAL Innovation 2018 selection committee which singled out the innovative & exotic use of teff.

Finally, teff has a low glycemic index, as indicated by the FAO. It is therefore particularly suitable for sufferers of diabetes or people who wish to control their weight.

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