Consumers confused about whole grains, suggests General Mills research

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary guidelines Whole grain General mills

Most Americans believe they consume enough whole grain – but only five percent get the recommended three servings per day, according to new research carried out by General Mills.

The 2005 US Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that everyone over the age of nine should consume at least three servings of whole grains every day. And it has been suggested that the release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, expected later this month, could further boost demand for whole grain products as they are likely to continue recommendations for whole grain foods in preference to those containing refined grains.

Ahead of the release of the latest Dietary Guidelines, General Mills conducted a survey of 1,010 US adults in October 2010 with the aim of better understanding how to help consumers close the gap between whole grain recommendations and actual intake.

Registered dietitian and senior nutrition scientist at General Mills’ Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, Michelle Tucker, told “In general there is a large consumer gap. A lot of people think that they get enough whole grain, but I think that was a surprising thing…[The new dietary guidelines] will continue to stress the importance of whole grains and more and more research supports the benefits of whole grains.”

The company found that 61 percent of those surveyed think that they consume enough whole grain in their diet, despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans do not reach guideline amounts, according to figures from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

General Mills’ research found that half of those surveyed specifically shop for whole grain products, but consumers are confused about how to find it. Only 16 percent correctly identified that terms such as ‘enriched flour’, ‘100 percent wheat’ and ‘multigrain’ do not necessarily mean that a product contains whole grain. Seventeen percent incorrectly said that whole grains are always organic, and 28 percent did not understand the difference between whole grain and enriched grain.

On-product whole grain claims have soared since the introduction of the Whole Grain Stamp in 2005. Market research organization Mintel says that since 2005, more than 3,700 new products carry the claim. It appeared on 2.3 percent of products launched in 2005 – rising to 5.6 percent in 2010.

The Whole Grain Stamp program provides manufacturers with two different versions: one that indicates that a product is made with 100 percent whole grain and provides a full 16-gram serving of whole grain per portion; and a basic Whole Grain Stamp that requires a product to provide at least eight grams of whole grain per portion, equivalent to a half serving of whole grains.

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