Josh Sosland
For those who have followed trends in whole wheat flour production from the various sources that have gathered data over the past decade, significant ups and downs are nothing new. For example, after years of stunning growth in 2004-05 and 2005-06 (average 2.5 million hundredweights of growth per year), the market flattened for two years before surging another 2.2 million hundredweights in 2009-10.

Even with this history, it is difficult to view without concern the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In the first six months of 2016, whole wheat flour production was down 1 million hundredweights, or 8 per cent, from the first half of 2015. In the most recent quarter, whole wheat flour production accounted for only 5 per cent of total flour output, down from a peak of around 6 per cent and about the same as in 2010. Remember, the Dietary Guidelines recommend the whole grain share should be at least 50 per cent.

Despite these figures, the Whole Grains Council remains optimistic about trends in whole grain intake, noting that the pace of new product introductions bearing the Whole Grain Stamp continues to quicken — expected to total about 2,000 products again this year. The group’s Cynthia Harriman says that at least in whole grain products, grains other than wheat account for an ever increasing proportion of new products.

Still, wheat remains by far the nation’s leading food grain, and the sluggish growth in whole wheat product demand represents a dose of cold reality highlighting the challenges of shifting consumer preferences that date back centuries.