When the rapid expansion in U.S. whole wheat flour production earlier in the decade was interrupted in 2007-08 by a modest gain of 5%, questions were raised as to whether the slower growth was a one-year aberration or a sign that America’s love affair with whole wheat was fading. Data published last week in Milling & Baking News appear to suggest the latter.

While the 2.6% gain in 2008-09 from the year before still represents positive growth, it is modest. Even total flour production has been up as much as 2.6% in recent years. Because whole wheat flour output represents less than 5% of wheat flour production, hopes that whole wheat flour will drive overall output growth, and accompany gains in grain-based foods, appear in doubt.

To be sure, several milling companies, including major milling companies, achieved year-over-year whole wheat flour production increases exceeding 10% in 2008-09. Many milling and baking executives remain hopeful about prospects for whole grains. Still, the abrupt deceleration in the past two years merits rumination by milling and baking executives, and to the degree it is possible, stepped-up efforts to reverse this new, less encouraging trend.