The stamp was first introduced three years ago, as a way to help consumers identify whole grain products in the supermarket. The Whole Grains Council, which designed the stamp, this year expects the symbol to appear on over three quarters of a billion food packages. In total, it is being used by around 180 food manufacturers on more than 1,600 different products.
The speed at which industry adopted the Whole Grain Stamp is a clear indication that food companies are eager to find ways to communicate the benefits of whole grains in their products. The new stamp launched for the Canadian market will now allow companies marketing products in that country to target the French-speaking community as well. The stamp has the same recognizable image and colors as the original, but also includes the words 'Grains Entiers' - French for 'Whole Grains'.
According to the Whole Grains Council, introduction of the Canadian stamp came after more than a year of discussions with Canadian authorities to better understand packaging regulations in that country. The group said it is now considering the possibility of an international version for use in other countries, especially in Europe where interest in whole grains is high.
Whole grains are found in products such as whole wheat, oatmeal, popcorn and brown rice. They consist of any grain that has retained its starchy endosperm, fiber-rich bran and its germ after milling. These grains have long been known to provide high levels of fiber, but new research in recent years has also revealed that they provide vitamins, minerals and high levels of antioxidants.
The grains have also been shown to help reduce the risk factors for a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. On the back of this new science, the US government advised in its 2005 Dietary Guidelines that Americans should consume upwards of three ounce-equivalents of whole grain products per day. The Whole Grain Stamp was launched one week later.
"We use the Whole Grain Stamp on scores of products in the US, as it helps consumers realize we're big proponents of healthy food and whole grains. We're already starting the process to use the bilingual stamp in Canada," said Maria Emmer-Aanes, director of marketing for Nature's Path, a founding member of the Whole Grains Council. The nutrition group has also launched a new stamp designed to be used on restaurant menus, in order to allow customers to clearly identify meals containing whole grains.
A recent survey conducted by the Hartman Group reveals that consumers today are more likely to examine product labels than ever before. The Group's Pulse Report, Food and Beverage Labeling from a Consumer Perspective was based on an interactive survey conducted this month and involving 747 consumers. According to Hartman, the findings reveal that label reading has become part of consumers' lifestyles.
The survey asked consumers questions about 13 packaging symbols, and found that 60 percent of shoppers know and trust the Whole Grain Stamp. According to data from Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD) there were 601 new whole grain products launched last year.
Between 2003 and 2006, the number of new whole grain product launches fairly doubled every year - from 64 in 2003, to 140 in 2004, to 346 in 2005, to 620 in 2006.
For information on the products using the Whole Grain Stamp, click here .