The year beginning shortly is the last year of the first decade of the 21st century. Grain-based foods ought to count itself fortunate that another year remains to make up for what has been a dismal showing in wheat flour consumption. In the same unhappy pattern recently noted for U.S. equity markets, which show annual declines for the first time in many decades, domestic per capita flour use has dropped from the last decade’s ending in 2000 and total disappearance is up by the least since the middle of the 20th century.

Based on flour output in the first nine months of 2009 being down slightly from 2008 and exports essentially the same, total disappearance is likely near the 416 million cwts in the prior twelvemonth. This means an average annual consumption gain of hardly 300,000 cwts, contrasted with upturns averaging more than 7 million cwts a year in the two prior decades. Continued growth in population means per capita flour disappearance fell by nearly 10 lbs from the end of the past century.

Seldom has a decade in the industry’s history had as many external negatives as did the first of the 21st century. The same two recessions that hurt stock performance weighed on food demand. Grain-based foods also had to deal with traumas like the Atkins diet and the uncertain impact of heightened consumer awareness about nutrition and food quality. The latter ought to be positive for flour use. These same influences should lift the outlook in the last year of this first 21st century decade.