Reasons cited to celebrate per capita holding

by Josh Sosland
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It was a fortnight ago when this publication reviewed the wheat flour disappearance estimates issued by the Economic Research Service for 2013, emphasizing that per capita disappearance had held almost unchanged around 135 lbs in each of the past five years. One point made, that this performance actually was better than the food industry as a whole, prompted more than a bit of wonderment. How could per capita flour use holding unchanged for such a long period be viewed as positive?

One of the best answers to any doubts about the performance of the grain-based foods industry emerged last week from Sheryl Stennett, marketing vice-president at Cargill, who told a meeting of cereal chemists that “flat is the new up.” In that remark, she characterized grain-based foods demand as flat, but cited recent Nielsen data showing annual growth rates of 1.5% for fresh bread, 6% for cookies and 5.7% for tortillas. These are major industry sectors showing gains surpassing those of most other major food products.

As Ms. Stennett hinted, achieving volume increases of that dimension was quite remarkable in light of the attacks that the industry has had to deal with in the consumer marketplace. Beyond its historic base as “the staff of life,” grain-based foods have done well by product innovation and quality enhancements and also have benefited from industry efforts to counter what are scientifically incorrect assaults on foods deserving praise, not slander.

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