man grocery shopping


What’s it going to take to help people eat more whole grains? According to a census-representative survey of American consumers, shifting the food environment to include more whole grain products is a good place to start. Specifically, the 2023 Whole Grain Consumer Insights Survey found that increasing the variety and availability of whole grain products at supermarkets was one of the best ways to encourage people to eat more whole grains, coming in second only after reducing the cost of whole grain items.

Gone are the days when whole wheat flour was relegated to the “health” section of the supermarket. Today, whole grain options can be found in nearly every department, from the baking aisle to the pasta aisle, to the rice and grains aisle, to the cereal and snacks aisle, to the bakery, and even the frozen aisle.

Whole grain variety and availability has come a long way in the more than 20 years the Whole Grains Council has been around, and yet there is still enormous untapped potential. Our census-representative survey data has consistently found that American consumers want to eat more whole grains, and that some product categories are especially appealing. Specifically, 38% of consumers want to eat more whole grain pasta (which is a significant increase from 2021), 38% want to eat more whole grain bread, rolls, and buns, 27% want to eat more whole grain crackers, snacks, rice, and grain sides, 26% want to eat more whole grain breakfast cereals, and 25% want to eat more whole grain pizza crust, cookies, cakes, and baked treats.

Is the whole grain supply available to meet this demand? Whole wheat flour production has been on the decline for some time, and many specialty products got cut from production in the early days of the pandemic in an effort to streamline product assortments and keep shelved stocked with basic necessities. As pandemic supply chain issues began to ease and consumer interest in healthy whole grain foods continued to grow, a number of creative whole grain offerings are ready to meet the moment.

In an analysis of Whole Grain Stamped products over the past decade, we found that the product categories with the most Stamped products were cold cereals, breads, snacks and crackers, hot cereals, grain side dishes, and flours. However, whole grains were very underutilized in the baking mix; pizza and pizza crust; waffles, pancakes, and French toast; soups; beverages; and yogurts categories comparatively, indicating places where further product development may be warranted.

While whole grain versions of many of these products exist, grain-free and refined gluten-free options of these products take up an exaggerated amount of shelf space for the roughly 5% of Americans who report always avoiding gluten. Surprisingly, while we often assume that low-carb dieters have lower whole grain consumption, our survey found that people who said they avoid carbs are more likely to look for whole grains when shopping, more likely to report nearly always choosing whole grain foods, and more likely to report having increased their whole grain intake a great deal in the last five years when compared with all consumers. This tells us that shoppers have a discerning eye when it comes to carbohydrate quality, and that whole grains meet the needs of many overlapping demographic groups who might otherwise share very little of each other’s nutrition philosophy.

Whether we spend our days as educators, food developers, retailers, or parents, each of us has a role to play in increasing whole grain consumption. For too long, supply chain stakeholders have underestimated consumer interest in whole grains. Developing and stocking whole grain foods across a wide variety of product categories at accessible price points is a key to increasing whole grain intake and improving public health. If you’re looking for support on your whole grain journey, you’ve come to the right place! (Kelly)    

To have our Oldways Whole Grains Council blog posts (and more whole grain bonus content!) delivered to your inbox, sign up for our monthly email newsletter, called Just Ask for Whole Grains. 

Add a Comment