Great hope in coordinated Council and Foundation

by Morton Sosland
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With the yearend at hand, the temptation is great to look back on what has been accomplished that makes grain-based foods a better place to do business and a more effective producer of humankind’s most basic foods. For a year like 2010, marked by some of the most volatile markets of recent memory and by the resurgence of worrying consumer attitudes toward grain products, it is still possible to cite many more than a few pluses. From the November election outcome to the glorious success of the International Baking Industry Exposition, the industry has witnessed and caused much that is praiseworthy. Yet, hardly anything offers more promise than the announcement last fall of the partnership between the Wheat Foods Council and the Grain Foods Foundation.

Here was the move that may help rewrite the future of grain-based foods in a positive direction.

Before hailing what this partnership has to offer it is advisable to acknowledge that the step was not easy. To be honest, the two organizations often had been at loggerheads on what were the best actions to take not just in response to forces that were negative, but how the industry efforts to promote itself should be conducted. Even though there was some commonality of backers and supporters mainly from flour milling, the two organizations all too frequently could not find common ground in pursuing their mutual goal of maintaining and boosting consumption. Neutral observers were shocked by disputes and differences that were more political than forward looking.

How this split was resolved, and those executives who brought it off deserve the gratitude of the entire industry, is not as important as the fine way their activities will now be coordinated. The solution involves simply naming a single president, Judi Adams, to head both organizations. She is charged with the fundamental task of making sure that the Council and the Foundation collaborate and work together to achieve the common goal. Success sensibly rests both on responding to negative assaults on the industry, from academic, dietetic or even government quarters, and in promoting the huge array of positive findings that should encourage people to want to increase their purchases and consumption of grain-based foods.

How these two forces are best addressed is illustrated by programs of the past several months. The Wheat Foods Council brought to Washington, D.C., its Urban Wheat Field experience, a two-day affair where leaders and staff in the nation’s capital learned first hand the nutritional values of grain-based foods while seeing how wheat moves from field to food. As the nation’s leaders experienced this basic instruction, the Grain Foods Foundation launched its Sandwich Night campaign to spur digital, social and traditional media to appreciate that sandwiches are an excellent choice for dinner, as well as for lunch. The focus is on encouraging a weekly Sandwich Night that will spur creativity and fun. It includes a national publicity tour to promote sandwiches “as a nutritious, delicious and convenient dinner option for busy families.”

Ms. Adams long has been a shining light in behalf of the industry, first at the Wheat Foods Council and then in establishing the Grain Foods Foundation. Yet, it was a stroke of careful planning and, yes, good fortune, that the situation arose where appointing her to lead both organizations made great sense. If anyone is familiar with the industry as well as the issues and difficulties it faces in building demand, it is Ms. Adams. She has managed and borne these responsibilities in a way that gives great credibility to this newly coordinated effort. No one familiar with the task expects a sudden upswing in per capita consumption. Yet, there’s every reason to hope that mustering the experience and the power of these two organizations will have grain-based foods in a stronger position than in a long time to deal with the many complexities of the food marketplace.

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