Reversal of innovation trend needed for vitality of grain-based foods

by Josh Sosland
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Among the more interesting and intuitive correlations in grain-based foods demand is the connection between per capita flour consumption and new product trends. This correlation may be seen both looking at the longer history of the baking industry as well as what has transpired during the last several months and years.

Viewed over the long term, the steady decline in flour consumption after World War II took place in an era in which white bread ruled and when innovations like brown ’n serve were few and far between. Similarly, the quarter century rise in consumption beginning in the early 1970s was launched by a surge in variety bread and quick-service restaurant sandwiches and was followed by explosive interest in ethnic foods ranging from pizza and pasta to bagels.

More recently, a 10-year slide in per capita consumption was interrupted in 2006 and 2007 by a wave of healthful new products, mostly tied to emerging consumer interest in whole grains. These gains came to a halt in 2008 (together with slower growth in whole wheat flour production).

This connection between new products and growth received powerful affirmation in data just issued. Mintel International New Products Database estimated new food and beverage product introductions in the first quarter of 2009 down 51% from the same period in 2008. Certainly, other factors have been and will be in play affecting demand. Still, for the vitality of the industry, a reversal of this innovation trend in grain-based foods is sorely needed.

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