Whole-grain message winning consumers

Whole-grain breads continue to buck the downward trend for all bread categories in the US by winning favour with consumers who are responding to clearer, more sophisticated and more prominent whole-grains labelling.

According to ACNielsen, whole-grain bread sales jumped 17 per cent in the 52-week period ending March 25, with pastas and breads, rice and cereals, cookies, cakes, snacks and even matzo meals being snapped up by consumers eager to reap the health benefits of whole grains consumption.

Food technology advancements have delivered whole-grain products consumers are more likely to try and stick with: whole-wheat breads with the characteristics of white bread, fast-cook brown rice, whole-grain hot dog and hamburger rolls and bagels.

In 2005, 303 whole-grain products were introduced in the US, compared with 143 in 2004. However, labels needed to be further improved to give consumers more detailed information. Very few products give the actual number of whole grain grams per serving content; instead, many use descriptors like "good" or "excellent." However, such terminology may soon be outlawed, as the Food & Drug Administration recently issued draft guidelines for whole-grains labelling that highlighted its opposition to such ambiguous terminology.

Currently, products that meet certain requirements can carry one of two marks provided by the Whole Grains Council. A stamp that says "good source of whole grains" means the item contains at least 8 grams of whole grains. The "excellent source of whole grains" stamps are on products with 16 grams or more. These are based on government dietary guidelines, which recommend at least three servings, or 48 grams, of whole grains a day. (A typical slice of 100 per cent whole wheat bread has 16 grams).

From May 1, the council's stamps will start to provide the actual grams of whole grains per serving and the total daily recommendation.

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