Whole grains event highlights growing awareness

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Grains Whole grain

Whole grains were in the spotlight last week, as food industry
executives, scientists and health professionals gathered in Kansas
City to examine the growth and the potential of the healthy grains.

Organized by the nutrition group Whole Grains Council and its parent company Oldways, the event was part of efforts "to make whole grains available everywhere Americans eat". ​ Whole grains have received considerable attention in recent years, especially in the US where whole grain products may carry a health claim. The nation's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits foods that contain at least 51 percent whole grains by weight and that are low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol to carry a claim linking them to a reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers. As awareness sweeps throughout the nation, consumers have started actively seeking out products made with whole grains, and the industry has stepped up to this demand with a flood of new or reformulated products. "Whole grain products grew 18 percent in 2005, after growing at less than 1 percent growth annually in 2001-2004,"​ said keynote speaker at last week's conference Dr Robert Post, deputy director of the US Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Market researcher Mintel also revealed at the event - Just Ask for Whole Grains -​ that whole grain product launches doubled from 2005 to 2006, according to data from its Global New Product database (GNPD). "The past few years have been a remarkable experiment in changing eating patterns,"​ said Oldways president Dun Gifford, comparing the success of the whole grains movement to other nutrition efforts that may not even get off the ground. Speakers at the event included ConAgra Mills R&D manager Elizabeth Arndt, who spoke about techniques manufacturers have developed to transform whole grain foods to deliver taste as well as health. Director of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Shelley Goldberg also presented at the conference, telling attendees about consumer behavior and motivation for purchasing whole grain goods. In addition, Deanne Brandstetter, director of nutrition at the foodservice provider Compass Group, spoke on strategies for whole grains in foodservice - revealing the extent to which whole grains have become a part of consumer consciousness. According to the group, which serves millions of meals every day at schools, workplaces and hospitals, nine out of ten customers say yes to whole grains, with these now being offered as the default option for all corporate catering. Found in products such as whole wheat, oatmeal, popcorn and brown rice, whole grains consist of any grain that has retained its starchy endosperm, fiber-rich bran and its germ after milling. These grains have long been known to provide high levels of fiber, but new research in recent years has also revealed that they provide vitamins, minerals and high levels of antioxidants. The grains have also been shown to help reduce the risk factors for a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes. On the back of this new science, the US government advised in its 2005 Dietary Guidelines that Americans should consume upwards of three ounce-equivalents of whole grain products per day.

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