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Danish Whole Grain Consumption up 72%

July 26, 2013

To paraphrase Shakespeare, something is awesome in the state of Denmark: Whole grain consumption has increased 72% in the last two years. And this isn’t one of those “fake big increases” – like when you have two pennies, get another penny, then say your fortune has increased by 50% – but you’ve still got no money to speak of. The Danes were already consuming 32 grams of whole grains a day in mid-2011, and now they’re up to 55 grams a day, on average.

How much is this? Dietary guidance in the U.S. recommends we all eat 48 grams or more of whole grain per day, so by the U.S. yardstick, the Danes are done. Arrived. All set. There’s a higher bar in Denmark though. Their national recommendations are for consumption of about 75 grams of whole grain per day. 

Neither the US nor the Danish level is tough to meet. Someone who enjoys a cup of oatmeal for breakfast (40g of whole grain) and a cup of whole grain pasta for dinner (56g of whole grain) would meet the Danish guidelines easily! And yet the Danes are still pushing for more. (We are too. The US government has not released any recent consumption data, but our current whole grain intake is likely much lower than Denmark’s starting point of 32 grams.)

The Danes attribute their awesome increase to better products from manufacturers, and a packaging symbol that identifies those products. “Our study indicates that Danes do not eat more bread and grain products than earlier. The increase is due to the fact that today foods like coarse wheat bread and pasta contain more wholegrain. Furthermore, it has become easier to choose wholegrain products,” senior adviser Heddie Mejborn of Denmark’s National Food Institute reported.

Both the symbol and the manufacturer-nudging happened thanks to the Danish Whole Grain Campaign. In January of 2009 they introduced a whole grain logo with the same purpose as the Whole Grain Stamp: to help consumers find and choose whole grain foods. (You can see the logo at the top of this blog -- it says "Choose whole grain first" in Danish.) By the beginning of this year, the logo could be found on more than 632 products – a large number in a small country. Also following the WGC model, the Danish Whole Grain Campaign enlists manufacturers as partners and gives them guidance about marketing whole grains. And of course, both our organizations constantly look for engaging ways to educate consumers about whole grains.

The Whole Grains Council has been privileged to work with the Danish Whole Grain Campaign since April 2007, when its founder, Morten Strunge Meyer, first emailed us with his idea and asked to brainstorm with us. As their program gained momentum, Morten invited me to come to Denmark in 2010 and speak with manufacturers there about whole grain marketing.

Since then, we’ve traded ideas regularly with Rikke Iben Neess and her colleagues. The Danes gave away whole grain samples at train stations in 2011, and inspired us to start Whole Grain Sampling Day. When we commandeered a Boston Duck Boat to give away whole grains, we inspired them to criss-cross their tiny country in a VW bus handing out goodies. We partnered with bloggers last spring to talk up whole grains, and Rikke soon emailed “Thanks for letting us borrow your blogger idea!” 

The Whole Grains Council salutes Denmark for its wonderful progress in switching to whole grains. We look forward to continuing to collaborate. It’s just so darn much fun to toss ideas back and forth across the Atlantic. (Cynthia) 

 


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