Whole Grains Momentum Surges

Consumers Respond Strongly to Increased Availability and Variety

BOSTON, MA, November 9, 2007- Whole grains are on a roll, concluded the experts at the “Just Ask for Whole Grains” conference held in Kansas City this week. The event was the third whole grains conference organized by Oldways and the Whole Grains Council since 2004.

“Whole grain products grew 18% in 2005, after growing at less than 1% growth annually in 2001-2004,” according to keynote speaker Dr. Robert Post, Deputy Director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Continuing the strength of this trend, whole grain product launches doubled from 2005 to 2006, according to data from Mintel’s Global New Product database, revealed at the conference.

“The past few years have been a remarkable experiment in changing eating patterns,” said Oldways President K. Dun Gifford, comparing the high-flying success of the whole grains movement to many other nutrition efforts that rarely get off the ground. In fact, the 2007 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council found that 71% of Americans are trying to consume more whole grains.

Additional evidence for the momentum of increased whole grain consumption appears among all segments of American consumers–and beyond our borders. Just a few of the many examples presented at the conference include:

• Compass North America, the world’s 12th largest employer serving millions of meals daily at schools, workplaces, hospitals and nursing homes, now offers whole grains as the default option in all its corporate catering – and nine out of ten customers say yes to whole grains. Compass also offers a whole grains loyalty card in some of its workplace dining locations, where diners earn points for eating more whole grains.

• Almost half of diners at PF Chang’s China Bistro and Pei Wei’s Asian Diner choose brown rice. This year the two restaurant chains expect to serve 12 million pounds of white rice — and to the amazement of conference attendees, 10 million pounds of brown rice.

• Serving more whole grains was the top change among school foodservice operations this year, with 85.1% reporting an increase, according to the School Nutrition Association’s 2007 Trends Report. Schoolchildren are making the switch fairly easily, according to Dr. Len Marquart, Assistant Professor of Nutrition at the University of Minnesota, whose research in school cafeterias reveals that children eat whole grain pizza and hamburger buns just as readily as their refined white-flour counterparts.

• The U.S. Navy makes whole grains a priority for keeping its fighting forces fit, stocking vending machines with whole grain snacks, adding “shelf talkers” on commissary shelves pointing out the health benefits of whole grains, and terminating fast-food contracts at base schools longer.

• Over 1,400 products from the Whole Grains Council’s 180 members now bear the Whole Grains Stamp. This eye-catching black and gold packaging symbol helps busy consumers spot foods offering at least a half-serving of whole grains.  A large “Stamp Power Tower” display, constructed from a mere tenth of these many boxes and bags, dominated the conference venue.

• Delegates traveled from Denmark, Japan, Germany and Australia to attend a special International Workshop to learn how the success of US whole grain programs could be extended to other countries interested in improving health.

Conference participants included health professionals,  marketing executives and R&D scientists from the nation’s leading companies, who sampled delicious whole grain foods at every meal. They were thrilled by the “Iron Chef Whole Grains Cook-Off” that pitted Chef Michael Holleman of Indian Harvest Specialtifoods against Chef Paul Lynch of the FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar at Minneapolis’ Radisson Plaza Hotel. In an entertaining hour, the two chefs traded good-natured banter while cooking six mouth-watering whole grain dishes, including Barley Ricotta Gnocchi and Savory Five-Grain Mushroom and Scallion Cakes with Cranberry Sauce.

At the conclusion of the conference, Oldways and the Whole Grains Council revealed new programs for 2008 designed to maintain the momentum of increased whole grain consumption.  One initiative is an information pamphlet for parents, to help them advocate for whole grains in their children’s schools. Another initiative will extend the Whole Grain Stamp to restaurants and other out of home eating-places.

For more details about the conference or any programs of Oldways and the Whole Grains Council, contact Courtney Davis, Director of Communications at 617-896-4888 (Courtney@oldwayspt.org).


The Whole Grains Council’s many initiatives help consumers to find whole grain foods and understand their health benefits; help manufacturers create delicious whole grain products; and help the media write accurate, compelling stories about whole grains.  

Oldways is the widely-respected nonprofit “food issues think tank” praised for translating the complex details of nutrition science into consumer-friendly health-promotion tools. Best known for developing the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, Oldways also develops and organizes a wide variety of programs and materials about healthy, traditional and sustainable food choices for consumers, scientists, the food industry, health professionals, chefs, journalists and policy makers.

You can learn more about the Whole Grains Council at www.wholegrainscouncil.org and about Oldways, its parent organization, at www.oldwayspt.org.