Industry develops whole grain 'action plan'

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Grain Whole grain

A whole grain 'action plan,' which aims to make whole grains more
wide spread, was recently developed by healthy eating executives
together with marketing, regulatory and food technology executives
from 40 leading US food manufacturers.

The representatives met at a conference earlier this month, held in Orlando and organized by the nation's Whole Grains Council (WGC) and Oldways, a Boston-based food issues think tank.

The action plan, which aims to help consumers get more whole grains into their everyday meals, includes initiatives such as an information exchange for schools and whole grain food companies, to enable schools to provide tasty, affordable whole grain options.

The plan also involves providing consumers with menus that include 'out of the box,' 'heat and eat' and 'quick cooking,' options, allowing them to learn about whole grain foods that match their lifestyle.

"Consumers understand the health benefits of eating whole grains, and the buying trends of 2005 have proven this with broad increases across all categories. It's clear that people want to eat healthier, but are looking for help to reach their goals,"​ said Oldways president and WGC founder Dun Gifford.

Indeed, since the publication last year of new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend the consumption of at least three servings of whole grains a day, sales and production of whole grain products have increased steadily.

For example, according to the WGC, sales of whole grain pasta have increased by 20 percent last year, while sales of whole grain bread rose 18 percent.

But finding whole grain products remains a key problem, says the council.

"Consumers know whole grains are healthy, that they probably should eat them, and they probably would, but they go into grocery stores and can't spot them,"​ Cynthia Harriman, the WGC's director of food and nutrition strategies recently told FoodNavigator-USA.

"Manufacturers are also allowed to list the amount of whole grains in their products, but the problem is that this doesn't mean anything to the average consumer. Most people don't know if 2g whole grain is beneficial or not,"​ she said.

As a result, the WGC last year introduced an eye-catching whole grain stamp, which is currently used on around 600 products.

Sponsors of the recent conference included General Mills, Panera Bread, Quaker Oats and Uncle Ben's.

"We've had good science but all of that does nothing until we have good implementation,"​ said speaker Dr Eric Hentges, executive director of the USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.

The conference concluded that although whole grains are showing up in "unexpected locations,"​ such as in fast food restaurants, schools and military commissaries, "only a continued emphasis on new and innovative education programs will persuade consumers that whole grains are readily available in markets and simple to incorporate into everyday meal planning."

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