Sorghum may be one of the country’s lesser grain commodities, but it certainly is a powerhouse as a superfood when exploring the crop’s market potential.
Researchers and business stakeholders gathered in late January for the Sorghum Improvement Conference of North America at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.
Besides learning about innovations in genetics, disease control and yield improvement, about 150 conferees also explored viable market opportunities for sorghum use.
While plenty of foods offer dietary intervention against health issue, including resveratrol in wine, curcumin in tumeric or fiber in grains and fruits, sorghum does, too, from its bran.
U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Dmitriy Smolensky has been working in Kansas to learn more about how high polyphenol sorghum bran inhibits cancer cell growth. He’s already identified which sorghum varieties perform the best, with many of his studies focusing on black sorghum bran.
He has concluded that phenolics in sorghum bran are wroth studying for cancer therapeutic and preventive properties.
In the future, Smolensky plans to further study it in colorectal cancer prevention, as well as improved methods to extract the phenols.
“We need to get more cell biologists, cancer scientists, nutritionists and animal scientists excited to conduct sorghum research so the hard work done by the breeders and grain scientists pays off,” he said.
Food and Drink
Food science and product development of sorghum is what drives Nu Life Market, a unique functional foods company in Kansas.
Nu Life President Earl Roemer said his company works with Kellogg’s, General Mills, Frito Lay, Nestle and others nationally and internationally with “great demand” for the sorghum products along every step of the food production process.
“Trait identification is really, really important to us. We have the ability to communicate with all of the food companies in the U.S. Sorghum has all of these great attributes that have consumer demand,” Roemer said.
The U.S. is a top sorghum exporter by far at 5.8 million metric tons in 2016-2017, over Argentina and Australia. Out of the U.S. production in 2016, 55 percent was exported, 21 percent went to ethanol production, 16 percent to livestock feed, 3 percent to food products, 2 percent to pet food and 3 percent to other. Top sorghum states are Kansas, Texas and Louisiana.
Roemer has a literal shopping list of sorghum’s assets as a food: gluten free, non-genetically modified, ancient grain, unique chemistry, sustainability, environmentally responsibility, U.S. grown, identity preservation and traceability.
He also enjoys calling it the “camel of crops” for its unusual water-saving abilities from its long root system, waxy leave coating and pigmented grain.
Another noteworthy fact about sorghum is its cancer-fighting, anti-oxidant capacity from its Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity rating. Sumac sorghum bran at 3,790 and black sorghum bran at 1,840 far outrank blueberries at 233 and pomegranates at 224, Roemer pointed out.
Nu Market also has secured a number of certifications to further improve its marketability that includes NonGMO Project Verification, Food Safety System Certification 22000 and USDA Organic certifications.
Nutritive value of pet food has a similar potential as it does with human consumables, and within the $30 billion pet food industry, there’s also available market share.
“Although the pet food market is much different, we steal a lot of the trends and concepts from human markets,” said Kansas State University’s Greg Aldrich. “I’m claiming that sorghum is a superfood for pets.”
“Cats and dogs outnumber children in U.S. households, and they are becoming the fur kids,” Aldrich said.
What this means for sorghum is that dog and cat owners are using the same discernment in feeding pets as they do their children, he added.
“They are looking for new ideas, new things to give them health benefits. One of things being thrown around out there is superfoods,” he said.
He’s trying to create a platform on what sorghum can do in the pet food industry. One of the first selling points is the nutrient composition — 75 percent starch, higher protein than corn at 9 percent, 3 percent fat and 2 percent to 3 percent crude fiber.
This also means it’s slower to digest and has a slower and longer glucose release, an important factor in diabetes-sensitive pets, such as cats.
Source: AgriNews |