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Echoes of our “New Norm” Conference

February 18, 2011

Maybe you can blame it on a little lingering vertigo, courtesy of a post-conference virus that laid me out for the whole week post-Portland, but I keep seeing echoes of Whole Grains: the New Norm everywhere I turn. Or maybe, it’s more accurate to say that our fifth whole grains conference made such a splash, even the littlest ripple seems to be washing knowledge, insight, and progress ashore.

It’s not just ego making me feel this way, although I can’t say that the entire office isn’t still humming with pride after pulling what may very well be the most successful Oldways/WGC conference to date. And it’s not just the media buzz that our friends have been sharing around the internet (but of course, that never fails to thrill). No, what I’m finding most impressive is how many seemingly unrelated articles and news bits all point back to our conference. I mean, it’s been what, two weeks since we brought the world’s attention to our celebration of whole grains as the norm? And yet, this blog will be fairly lengthy, thanks to all the nods and kudos I’m seeing in the food world.

Here, let me show you what’s surfaced just this week:

  • 2/14 From the BBC News, China has just been declared the world’s second-largest economy, with the U.S. hanging on to first place and Japan sliding down to a third. This news parallels much of what conference attendees gleaned by listening to a highly informative presentation from Yu Xiaodong, General Director of China’s Public Nutrition and Development Center (PNDC) and one of the top nutrition authorities in China. Just one of the mind-blowing facts from his talk – it would take 47 million metric tons of whole grains a year to fulfill China’s recommendations for whole grain consumption. 47 million metric tons! And China’s recommendations spring from a place very close to home – the country’s long love affair with refined grains is taking quite a toll on the over-all health of the population. Facing a staggering increase of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, Chinese authorities are determined to promote the benefits of whole grains in their country. Check out General Director Yu’s presentation here.

  • 2/15 – From The Beacon-News, an exploration of Jewel-Osco’s new “nutrition iQ” program. And before you even think “Yeah yeah, hooray for the folks in Illinois, but didn’t this story already break before your conference?” Yes, technically it did. But it’s one thing to read an article and think “Wow that’s pretty cool,” and it’s something else entirely to be sitting in a room, listening to the Director of Health & Wellness Marketing for all SUPERVALU stores (including Jewel-Osco) explain how important this new health education initiative is to the entire corporation. You can’t help but get goosebumps, knowing that the “nutrition iQ” materials you’re seeing in action could be the very key to some anonymous consumer’s moment of health enlightenment in their own neighborhood grocery store. By all means, go see for yourself!

  • 2/15 – From Medill Reports, a closer look at the fast food industry’s increased efforts to offer more healthy choices. The WGC definitely thinks this healthier fast food trend is here to stay – or did you miss Cindy’s blog from the other week, showing off how superbly awesome the Whole Grain Stamp looks on the McDonald’s Oatmeal container? We’ve been collecting whole grain menu options in restaurants across the country for years now, helping consumers enjoy whole grains whenever they dine away from home. We’ve also been pleased to see increased interest from brick-and-mortar establishments serving on-the-go and sit-down whole grain items. Newcomers Arby’s, Kwik Trip, and McDonald’s join existing Members like Daily Bread Bakery, Il Fornaio, Lakewood Matzoh, NatureBake/Dave’s Killer Bread, Udi’s Foods, and Whole Foods in continuing to serve whole grains to dining customers and retail consumers alike.

  • 2/16 – From Food Business News, a short-but-sweet piece on Safeway’s new nutrition information program, which the retailer is calling SimpleNutrition. The program’s shelf tags will alert shoppers to 22 different nutrition and ingredient benefits of corresponding products. “Made with whole grains” will be sharing this very select field along with consumer favorites like “gluten-free” and “organic”, guaranteeing that whole grain call-outs meet specific criteria. And guess what? Safeway just happens to be a WGC Member, proudly using the Whole Grain Stamp on a growing list of their store-brand whole grain products.

So where will all these ripples take us? Onward and upward, of course! Next month we’ll survey the whole grain landscape during Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, and April will see Cindy and me jetting off to Beijing for Third International Nutrition & Healthy Industry Expo and China’s first ever Whole Grain Forum. After that, the food world as we know it may look completely different, but one thing’s for sure – whole grains will be there, in the center of the plate. (Kara)


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