Exploring a ‘needle mover’ for grain-based foods

by Josh Sosland
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Josh Sosland
It wasn’t so long ago that the Wikipedia entry for “empty calories” featured “refined grains, such as white bread or white rice” on a list of foods “considered to contain mostly empty calories.” A more grotesquely inaccurate descriptor of white bread and rice would be difficult to conjure – enriched grains represent the single greatest source of numerous key nutrients, including iron and folic acid, in addition to fiber in the American diet. The listing could have been submitted as “Exhibit A” in the case for the need for an industry-wide product promotion effort.

Over the last 13 years, the Grain Foods Foundation has worked diligently to debunk myths about grain-based foods, focusing on key influencers as the most cost-effective path to positively change the discussion about the industry’s products. Indeed, the Wikipedia listing today for empty calories no longer includes a reference to refined grains, white bread or rice.

Unfortunately, the industry’s ultimate goal is not winning a Wikipedia page battle; it is building per capita demand for flour. It’s a battle that isn’t going well. Interviews of key industry stakeholders show a common aspiration for an effort that will “move the needle” of demand and a recognition this goal will not be achieved without much greater resources than currently are being invested. Against this backdrop, a checkoff program feasibility study is under way. How this exploration plays out remains to be seen, but good for the grain-based foods industry for finally taking a serious look at a strategy that has a genuine chance to move the needle.
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