What is it about whole grains that people love? The science? The simplicity? The feeling that deep down in all those added, refined and modified ingredients lies something recognizable — something as honest and down-home as a nub of grain?
Whatever the reasons, the food industry is finding there’s no better way to say about a product, “Hey! This is healthy!” According to research firm Mintel, this year is set to become the biggest for the number of new products launched making whole grain claims. So far, there have been 651 such releases across all food categories. Since 2005, more than 3,700 new products have rolled out with whole grain claims on the package.
One of the most recognizable of these claims is the Whole Grains Council Stamp. You’ve probably seen it numerous times, its black-and-yellow face cozied up next to the product logo. Data from SPINS, a firm that tracks the natural products industry, notes that sales of naturally positioned dry goods with the council’s stamp have grown 16% over the past year.
The whole grain bandwagon should keep on rolling into the near future, with notable innovations in some unexpected categories. Whole grains have started showing up in yogurt and snack products like cookies and potato chips, and should appear in beverages pretty soon.
And hey, what’s not to love about the whole grain? It is healthy, after all. What may not be so healthy, and what retailers and manufacturers should beware of, is the runaway marketing of it. Whole grains don’t magically transform junkfood into something that’s better for you. And they shouldn’t be a substitute for more substantial product changes and transparency, which is what tuned-in shoppers are looking for these days.
Bottom line: Don’t overextend the claim. Lipstick doesn’t make a pig any prettier, and a whole grains stamp won’t make a double-chocolate brownie any healthier.