First there were Chia Pets; now there are chia people
First there were Chia Pets; now there are chia people.
Ubiquitous in television ads that began 30 years ago, Chia Pets were called “the pottery that grows.” Mixing chia seeds and water on the outside of an animal-shaped terra-cotta figurine produces a plant resembling green hair almost overnight.
Now, chia is having a second life as a nutritional “it” item. Whole and ground chia seeds are being added to fruit drinks, snack foods and cereals and sold on their own to be baked into cookies and sprinkled on yogurt. Grown primarily in Mexico and Bolivia, chia is rich in the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, along with antioxidants, protein and fiber. Recognition of its nutritional value can be traced as far back as the Aztecs.
Companies like Dole and Nature’s Path have introduced chia products, which have begun showing up on shelves in mainstream grocery stores like Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons. Mintel, a market research firm, counted 100 products containing chia in a presentation it did in March on the potential of increasing the use of the seeds in dairy products.
“About two years ago, our retailers came to us and said, ‘We need you to be in this business everyone is talking about, the business of chia seeds,’ ” said Michael P. Hirsch, vice president of Joseph Enterprises, which sells Chia Pets and other novelty products and has now added chia seeds and milled chia called — what else? — Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Omega.