Whole Grain Stamp: 10,000 in 10 years

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — Ten thousand in 10 years. Not a bad response to an initiative that sprouted from the minds of a select group of individuals back in 2004.

The Whole Grain Stamp program was unveiled to members of the Whole Grains Council and media at the W.G.C. Summit Conference in New Orleans in November 2004. It was designed to alert consumers to the number of grams of whole grain in a serving of a particular product.

In 2008, the stamp was featured on 1,000 products, including on the first foreign language products — a bilingual French/English stamp for products sold in Canada. By 2011, the stamp was on nearly 5,000 products, including McDonald’s newly-launched oatmeal. The initiative signaled the stamp’s leap from supermarkets to food service. And just this past October the stamp achieved yet another milestone: its appearance on its 10,000 product.

“It’s easy to see the Whole Grain Stamp has taken the world by storm,” Mallory Cushman, stamp program manager for Oldways/W.G.C., told participants at the W.G.C. conference held Nov. 9-11 at the Hyatt Boston Harbor. “While the stamp was originally meant to be a domestic program, demand for foreign language stamps increased and the stamp is currently used in 40 countries around the world.”

Indeed, the stamp’s presence in countries outside the United States has been a big reason for its success. According to the W.G.C., one-fifth of the 10,000 products using the stamp are approved for use in one or more countries outside the United States. More than 8,700 products are approved to use the stamp in the United States, followed by Canada with more than 1,700 products and Mexico with nearly 340 products. Three other countries — Colombia, France and Brazil — have more than 100 products featuring the stamp; two — Peru and Chile — have at least 70; and 10 — Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Venezuela, Honduras, United Kingdom, Dominic Republic, China and Australia — have at least 25 products.

Ms. Cushman said approximately 69% of stamped products feature the “basic stamp,” which means a product may contain some refined grain in addition to a significant amount of whole grain (at least 8 grams). The remaining 31% of stamped products feature the “100% stamp,” which is used on products where all the grain is whole grain. These products also must contain at least 16 grams of whole grain per serving.

The rapid growth of the stamp program has in large part been a direct result of the W.G.C.’s ability to continue to attract new membership.

“We’ve grown from 9 members to over 375,” Ms. Cushman said. “We created a dynamic and ever growing web site. We’ve managed a continuing campaign to educate the media and the public about the health benefits and deliciousness of whole grains.”

The W.G.C.’s web site, (www.wholegrainscouncil.org, welcomed 2,067,071 unique visitors from 232 countries and territories who viewed more than 4 million pages during the past year. According to the council, more than 9% of the web site visits were seeking information on gluten-free whole grains, while 7% were looking for whole grains “A to Z,” and 4% were interested in the definition of a whole grain.

 “We continue to engage with our members, the consumers and with the media to provide compelling information, awareness and to create exciting events and promotions,” Ms. Cushman said.
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