For so long, grain-based foods and the food industry generally have eyed the same fundamental consumer trends of taste, value, convenience and healthfulness and those remain dominant to this day. Priorities, though, have changed, creating challenges for companies trying to hit these trends while adjusting to the new realities.

During tough economic times, a mainstay of the food processing and food service industries has been "value" selections offering large servings at reasonable prices. For the seller, adding product to a serving often contributes little incremental cost while traditionally offering the consumer desired benefits.

In view of heightened awareness of the growing prevalence of obesity, food companies face a dilemma in the current economic recession when they consider adding "20% more" as a way to attract consumers. In a way unlikely to have been the case even a few years ago, value packages (particularly for single-serve items) may be viewed negatively by a certain growing segment of consumers.

One company addressing this challenge cleverly is KFC Corp., part of Yum! Brands. The company has just introduced its 395-calorie Kentucky Grilled Meal for $3.95. The meal features two pieces of chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. The idea cleverly and directly marries value and healthfulness.

Grain-based foods companies similarly may wish to dig into their marketing toolbox to find different ways to give their products heightened appeal in an ever evolving marketplace.