As a rule, for decades, U.S. flour production in the United States has risen in most years. Not every year, but most. That’s because even if per capita consumption of flour falls or remains flat in a particular year, total flour production usually rises, thanks to a small boost because of population growth. That norm of growth, though, has been challenged over the past 10 years or so.

Between 2001 and 2011, total U.S. flour production fell in six years, more than 50% of the time. By contrast, in the 30 previous years flour production fell in a total of 7, or around 23% of the time. Against this disappointing trend in the 2000s, recent news that flour production in 2012 was up 8,620,000 cwts from the year before certainly is welcome. The figure would suggest per capita consumption of flour moved higher in 2012 from the year before, a figure that will be confirmed later. It would be only the third annual gain in per capita consumption since 2000.

The flour-based foods industry has faced numerous serious challenges over this period, including rising costs, indictments of the health benefits of its principal products and economic pressure. While earlier short-lived rallies in flour production in recent years suggest it is premature to label the jump in 2012 as “turning the corner” for a growth challenged industry, the gain is cause for optimism and should be viewed as a new foundation upon which to build.