Growing public awareness of the importance of fiber in the diet has been shown by recent growth in demand for whole grain foods and perhaps even more so by interest in products containing extra fiber. The great success of the Fiber One brand of General Mills, Inc. attests to this success. In fact, there is evidence that interest in whole grains has been eclipsed by new fiber-intense items such as Fiber One.

The back and forth between whole grains and fiber was brought into focus at the recent Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference when A.D. David Mackay, president and chief executive officer of Kellogg Co., was asked whether consumers’ gravitation toward added fiber and whole grain products put Kellogg at a disadvantage relative to General Mills.

“On the issue of fiber and whole grain there is no question that (General) Mills has done a very good job on whole grain,” he said. “I would have to tell you from a scientific perspective the issue for American consumers is that 9 out of 10 adults and kids don’t get enough fiber in their diet, and whole grain does not necessarily give you fiber. So to an extent claims (about) whole grain if it doesn’t have fiber are a tad disingenuous.”

While the response accurately captures whole grain/fiber tension that is very real, it is troubling to think Mr. Mackay would belittle whole grains as a fiber-rich food. Yes, the three grams of fiber in a slice of whole wheat bread or bowl of Cheerios may not equate to the contents of an all-bran product or new age fiber bar. Still, when it comes to advising consumers on how to add fiber to their diets, nutritionists have and will continue to direct consumers without hesitation to whole grains.