The 50%+ stamp, which launched in January, also recognizes that while consumers are starting to look for products with more than the at least 8 grams of whole grains per serving in products with the Basic Stamp, many still are not ready to fully embrace products with the 100% Stamp, which indicates all the grains are whole and that a serving contains at least 16 grams of whole grains.
“This stamp is aimed at trying to address the recommendations of the dietary guidelines [that consumers should make half of their grains whole] and also recognize that while the 100% stamp is obviously the ideal, not all food manufacturers or consumers are at that point where they want to go fully whole grain,” Caroline Sluyter, the Whole Grain Stamp program manager, told FoodNavigator-USA.
She added the new mid-tier stamp “is great to be able to distinguish multiple levels that consumers can work their way up as they are getting used to whole grains and getting more familiar with the flavors. It also gives manufacturers a kind of benchmark to continuously improve their whole grain content.”
Ancient grains are gaining traction
As consumers are stair-stepping up the amount of whole grains in their diet, they also are expanding the types of whole grains they are eating, Sluyter said.
“The standard go-to grains that have been there throughout our history as an organization are certainly wheat, oats and bulger, which is a form of wheat that also has always been popular in soups and things like that,” she said. But, she added, “what we are seeing in the last maybe six or seven years is a real interest in what are commonly referred to as ancient grains. So, grains like quinoa and sorghum and amaranth are all seeing big surges in popularity.”
For support, she pointed to an increase in companies that are registering for Whole Grain stamps that use these less common grains. For instance, the number of products with Whole Grain stamps that are made with quinoa was 3.3% in 2011 but now it is up to 9.2%.
Similarly, products with a stamp that use amaranth are up from 1.7% in 2011 to 3.7% today and sorghum is up from 0.7% in 2011 to 3.5% now.
Sluyter also is seeing a gradual increase in products made from millet and teff, which in addition to their story about nutrient density and high fiber have an added appealing element of being sustainable in droughts and floods – which is an increasingly important point for consumers today.
A steady adoption of the new stamp
While the new stamp has only been available for a few months, Sluyter said at least 34 companies already plan to launch in the spring and summer products with the stamp, including King Arthur Flour, Tyson Foods, Hodgson Mill and Post Consumer Brands.
This is in addition to the more than 11,000 products in 55 countries that already use the 100% Stamp and the Basic Stamp, she added.
Oldways has noted a particular uptick in manufacturers outside the US signing up to use the stamp.
“Our foreign membership has really taken off in the last two to three years, during which point it has risen 19%, so that now we have 68 international members who are based in 22 countries,” Sluyter said. She added more broadly, the organization has seen a 5% overall increase in membership – bringing the total to more than 400 members.
Sluyter attributes the growth in part to smaller companies noticing the sales lift of larger companies that have the stamp and wanting in on the action.
“There are a significant number of consumers today who go into the grocery store looking for the stamp and a lot of health care providers are advising their patients to search for the stamp, and so I think it gives those companies a boost in visibility,” she said. While she acknowledged that plenty of products without the stamp meet the program’s standards, she also noted that because they don’t have the stamp the have to “work harder and kind of yell that out to the customer, whereas the stamp at this point is a very well recognized symbol and tool that consumers are using.”