Recently published data related to flour production highlight significant shifts in the grain-based foods industry. In its July 27 issue, Milling & Baking News estimated 2009-10 whole wheat flour production at 18.6 million cwts, up 12% from the year before. The double-digit jump marked a resumption of the rapid growth that had been interrupted the previous two years when production was up about 3% per year.

On Aug. 5, the Census Bureau issued data pegging January-June 2010 wheat flour production at 202.9 million cwts, down 0.3% from the same period in 2009. At one level, the whole wheat data affirmed the “niche” status of this product. At 4.5% of overall production, mills make as much enriched wheat flour in 13 days as they make whole wheat flour in an entire year.

Still, amid signs that overall flour production and baked foods demand remain caught in a no-growth funk, the importance of whole wheat for milling and baking companies should not be overlooked. It is clear that whole wheat products account for much and perhaps all of the volume growth in milling and baking in recent years, and there is little reason to expect that to change in the immediate future.

The question is whether baking companies will continue to find innovative new ways to attract consumers to whole grain products.