General Mills goes with the (whole) grain

America's second largest cereal maker, Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc., recently announced that it is reformulating all of its Big G breakfast cereals to be based on whole grains.

Aside from the obvious marketing advantages associated with the change, the move aims to have a positive impact on public health. A corporate press release quoted former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler as saying, “This improvement by General Mills... could signal the most comprehensive improvement in the nation’s food supply since the government began mandatory fortification of grains in the 1940s.”

Complementing the reformulation will be new packaging with a “Whole Grain” logo featured prominently on every box. The revamped packages (at right) will begin appearing on supermarket shelves in October, with the rollout continuing through early 2005.

General Mills conducted nationwide taste tests with more than 9,000 people. Testers liked the new whole grain cereals as much as or more than the previous cereal recipes.

The entire General Mills portfolio of Big G breakfast cereals will now qualify for labeling claims designating them as either “Good” or “Excellent” sources of whole grain. Long-time whole grain cereals such as Cheerios, Wheaties, Total and Wheat Chex were already “Excellent” sources of whole grain and were not changed.

In a national survey, 91 percent of respondents said they want more whole grain foods in their diet, but research shows that Americans are not getting enough. Only 3 percent of the total calories consumed annually in the U.S. come from whole grain. Adults consume an average of just one serving a day of whole grain foods—and children eat even less—although public health officials recommend consuming at least three servings per day.

Increasing the amount of whole grain in breakfast cereals could help provide a turnaround for this nutritional deficit, asserts Susan J. Crockett, Ph.D., R.D., who is the senior director of the Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, the nutrition research arm of General Mills. Some 93 percent of American households eat cereal, according to a Gallup study titled “Consumer Attitudes and Behaviors Concerning Breakfast.”

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