Marking the 10th anniversary of the first Whole Grains Council conference, organizers of the 2014 event expressed extraordinary pride in what has been achieved since the first gathering. Sara Baer-Sinnott, president of Oldways, the group that conceived the Whole Grains Council, said progress extends far beyond the 10,000 products that now bear The Whole Grain Stamp. Ms. Baer-Sinnott identified barriers related to whole grains that have come down over the past decade, including questions over its healthfulness, a less than full embrace in the Dietary Guidelines, a dearth of tasty products on the market and consumer reticence.
Describing one effort to overcome consumer wariness was Anna Morales of Barilla. She detailed a promotion conducted by her company in which consumers were “challenged” to try whole grain pasta. Those who didn’t care for the product could submit a form for a free box of regular semolina pasta. She said 575,000 boxes were sold in the six-month trial, and fewer than 400 consumers opted for the offer to replace the pasta. Many other companies in baking and beyond have worked hard to introduce successful new whole grain selections.
Amid this enthusiasm, data on actual whole wheat flour production represent a cautionary note. The latest figures issued by the North American Millers’ Association have shown a lack of growth of whole wheat flour production, at about 4% of the flour total. Developing broad enthusiasm for whole grains always has been a challenge and still is.