Communicating Whole Grain Needs to Consumers

Feb. 6, 2006
How can food and nutrition professionals best communicate to consumers advice on how to boost their intake of whole grains?

Last month I was fortunate enough to participate in the "Getting Whole Grains to 3" conference in Orlando, Fla. Hosted by Oldways Preservation Trust (www.oldwayspt.org) and the Whole Grains Council (www.wholegrainscouncil.org), the conference brought together processors big and small, ingredient growers/manufacturers and suppliers, media, chefs, retailers, health and nutrition experts and, of course, the dedicated folks at Oldways.

If you're not familiar with Oldways, they're the folks who invented the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid and raised awareness of the considerable health qualities of olive oil, essentially putting a bottle of the elixir in every kitchen in America.

What makes the group most unique is their approach to diet and health centers around the fact that people eat food, not nutrition. That's something 99 out of 100 health experts have failed to grasp. Oldways was one of the first to realize that no dialogue about nutrition is complete without the people who create food.

The goal of the conference was to brainstorm ways to get Americans eating more whole-grain products. And brainstorm we did. But a funny thing happened on the way to my part in the media panel discussion: I had a revelation and, scrapping most of my prepared notes, I shared it with the audience: The whole grains message is not exactly one for consumers.

As a friend who writes for a large consumer magazine says, the whole grain message is not always translatable to the kitchen. If someone makes pancakes with whole-grain flour, how many pancakes of what size are a serving?

Unlike the 5-A-Day campaign, say, where the average Jane and Joe can increase their intake of fruits and veggies by grabbing another banana or orange, few folks can grow a plot of barley or spelt and process it on the fly.

Consumers have to rely mostly on processors to fulfill such a goal. That's OK. Food processors have shown a sincere desire to make - voluntarily - better products for consumers.

And as consumers, we're lucky. The Whole Grains Council already had the tool in hand to accomplish their goal: the Whole Grains Stamp. With this handy little appliqué, as processors continue making their already excellent strides in creating and marketing whole grain products, consumers will need only to look at a package. They will know instantly that the product in hand has that extra health aspect of being a whole-grain food.

NOTE: Calling all manufacturers of grain-based foods: Does your product carry the Whole Grain Stamp yet? It should! To find out more about the "Whole Grains to 3" conference, go to: http://wholegrainscouncil.org/Conf06pressrelease.html.

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