Sept. 1 marks the beginning of Whole Grains Month, an annual initiative designed to introduce consumers to the health benefits and great taste of whole grains, and according to the Oldways Whole Grains Council, Americans whole-grain habits are improving.
New data from its 2015 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey found nearly two-thirds of Americans say they are heeding the Dietary Guidelines advice to “make at least half your grains whole," with the majority of Americans eating more whole grains than they did five years ago.
“For years, most people came nowhere close to whole-grain recommendations, so it is encouraging to see that many are now benefiting from switching more of the grains they eat to whole grains," said Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies, Oldways Whole Grains Council. “The next step is tempting Americans to expand their whole grain palates beyond bread, cereal and brown rice to delicious grains like spelt, farro, amaranth and teff."
Whole grains have come a long way in the past few years, buoyed by delicious new food choices, changing consumer tastes and ongoing research show that eating whole grains lowers the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Other benefits include reduced risk of asthma, healthier blood pressure levels and better weight control.
In the article “Whole Grain Trends" published last spring in Food Product Design, Harriman identified three whole-grain trends predicted to take center stage in the near future include sprouted grains, zesty flavors and lesser-known grains. Seems she was on the mark. (Check out the Whole Grain Momentum infographic.)
According to the survey results, whole-grain consumption is up with 64 percent of respondents increasing whole grain consumption “some" or “a lot" in the last five years. In fact, two in three respondents who nearly always choose whole grains now have increased their whole-grain consumption a great deal compared to five years ago.
Consumers also are choosing whole grains more often. Thirty-one percent nearly always choose whole grains compared to just 4 percent five years ago. (That is HUGE for the industry.) Another 32 percent choose whole grains about half the time. That means 63 percent are making more than half their grains whole, good news since the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, due out this fall are expected to continue with this recommendation as they have since 2005.
Data also found breakfast remains the biggest eating occasion for whole grains, followed by dinner and then lunch. On average, 37 percent of daily whole grains are consumed at breakfast, 27 percent at dinner, 22 percent at lunch and just 14 percent as snacks. People eat nearly 30 percent more whole grain breakfast cereal (hot or cold) than refined.
The top 5 favorite whole grain foods are whole-grain bread (31 percent), oatmeal (27 percent), Popcorn (15 percent), whole-grain cold cereal (15 percent) and whole-grain pasta (8 percent).
And it seems consumers are embracing health and wellness. Nearly 86 percent of those who consume whole grains do so for the health benefits, and 40 percent choose whole grains because they enjoy the taste. Interestingly, cost was named as the leading barrier to eating more whole grains (39 percent).
Other interesting factoids include: whole wheat, oats and brown rice are the most popular grains, yet only one in five are familiar with spelt, farro, amaranth, Kamut® or teff. And when it comes to claims 82 percent trust the Whole Grain Stamp to accurately state a product’s whole-grain content. What’s more, 79 percent say the Whole Grain Stamp would make them more likely to buy a product; about half of these also consider sugar, sodium and other product factors.
For information on whole grains are influencing new product development, download Food Product Design’s “Functional Foods & Beverages" Digital Issue and the “Multi-Functional Fiber" article on Natural Products INSIDER and the