Hardly any single external number is more important to the well-being of grain-based foods than the population total of the United States. After all, no food products are more a part of every person’s diet than those made by this industry, making the population count a count of the industry’s consumers. While the amounts consumed per person do vary considerably from year to year and among various population sectors, the aggregate dominates as the major industry determinant.

Estimates just issued by the Census Bureau affirm that population growth has slowed. The U.S. total as of last July was 316,128,839, up 0.72% from a year earlier, which was the smallest annual gain in more than 70 years, or since the Great Depression. The Census also estimated the total Jan. 1, 2014, at 317,297,938, up just 0.7% from a year earlier. That contrasts with annual gains of 1.2% during the 1990s and 1.8% at mid-20th century.

Texas, California and Florida were states with the largest gains, continuing the long-running growth focus in the West and South. Population aging is the main factor cited in accounting for the slowdown, and also a contraction in immigration attributed to concern about the state of the American economy. For grain-based foods this shrinkage in population growth once again underscores just how essential it is that the industry concentrates on innovative ways of attracting demand for its products, while countering all that is falsely negative.