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Something is Whole Grain in the State of Denmark

May 20, 2010 Shakespeare, in Hamlet, complained about something rotten in the state of Denmark. I’m just back from visiting our colleagues at the Danish Whole Grain Campaign, and I can gladly report that things have changed in four centuries: Denmark is a wonderful country for many reasons, not the least of which is its great momentum in the realm of whole grains.

Three years ago, in April 2007, Morten Strunge Meyer of the Danish Cancer Society emailed us, saying “We are very inspired and impressed by your WGC efforts. If possible we would love to start a dialogue with you.” At the time, Morten was laying the groundwork for a planned whole grain campaign in Denmark, and that email blossomed quickly into a rapid-fire exchange of ideas, and into a solid friendship.

The Danish Whole Grain Campaign was launched in January of 2009. Like the WGC, it features consumer education to increase demand for whole grains, and collaboration with manufacturers to increase the supply of whole grain options in stores and restaurants. Also like the WGC, the Danish campaign has a packaging logo; it’s now on 194 products.  

Between business appointments, I spent a very pleasant weekend in Copenhagen as the guest of Morten, his wife, and three daughters, biking everywhere like a good Dane, and helping out with the grocery shopping (just about the only time the family uses its car). That’s a photo of Morten in a supermarket, above, proudly displaying products using the Danish whole grain symbol.

So far, the Danish symbol is most often found on breads. The Danes, like other Scandinavians, have a strong history of enjoying dense, moist, rye breads and cracker-like rye crisp-breads. (We visited the Schulstad bread factory and marveled at how they bake long-fermentation sourdough breads that are made almost entirely from solid rye kernels, rather than flour.)

Now, however, in an effort to boost consumption to the 75g per day recommended in Danish dietary guidelines, Danish manufacturers are making important efforts to introduce new products not familiar to most Danes – such as softer white whole wheat breads. And it’s working. Products using the Danish “Stamp” increased 19% in sales volume from March 2009 to March 2010, with some white whole wheat products going up as much as 20-30% – at a time when the grain-foods category overall saw a 1% drop in sales.

I met a few dozen of these companies on May 10, at a workshop at the Danish Food Ministry, where we presented information about how the Whole Grains Council supports manufacturers’ efforts to make better whole grain products. (Click here to see the presentation.)

We’re glad to have played a role in getting the Danish Whole Grain Campaign off the ground. As so often happens when you give freely, you gain even more in the long run. One of the best parts of my visit was a long brunch with Danish campaign staffers Rikke Neess and Nina Mourier, where I garnered some great ideas and inspiration for future programs from them. What started with a single email in 2007 is now part of the worldwide whole grain revolution. (Cindy)

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