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Survey reveals half of US consumers increased whole grain intake in past 5 years

Zoom in font  Zoom out font Published: 2021-07-30  Origin: foodingredientsfirst
Core Tip: US consumers are eating more whole grains for their perceived health benefits, flavor and sustainability credentials, according to a recent survey of 1,505 adults.
US consumers are eating more whole grains for their perceived health benefits, flavor and sustainability credentials, according to a recent survey of 1,505 adults.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, one in five US consumers say they are eating more whole grains, and half have increased their intake in the last five years. This is despite rising trends in low-carb diets, notes the Oldways Whole Grains Council, which conducted the survey.

Other drivers of higher whole grain intake include more at-home meals during the pandemic, the move toward plant-based eating and increased transparency with third-party labeling of whole grain foods.

Whole grains for health
Health is the leading driver for choosing whole grains, with 82 percent of consumers citing it in the 2021 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey.

Increased consumer awareness may be due to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which have encouraged everyone to make at least half their grains whole grains since 2005.

According to the new survey data, 59 percent of US consumers say they are meeting this goal, with 26 percent of consumers reporting that they “nearly always” choose whole grains whenever they are available.

Industry is also formulating more with whole grains to enhance nutrition. Last year, Nestlé placed a green banner on all Nestlé-branded cereals, denoting it as a source of fiber and made with whole grains.

COVID-19’s impact on whole grains
Moreover, the vast majority of consumers (88 percent) are most likely to consume whole grains when eating at home.

With half of US consumers eating more home-cooked meals as a result of the pandemic, COVID-19 is another driver for the uptick in whole grain intake.

In June, John Powers, marketing director, snacking and baked goods at ADM, told that whole grains were featuring more in snacks. He attributed the drive toward whole grains, ancient grains and multi-grains to the pandemic, which brought health more into focus.

Taste for whole grains
More people consider the flavor of whole grains to be a benefit (38 percent) rather than a barrier (33 percent) in choosing whole grain foods.

The percentage of those who cite taste as a barrier has fallen significantly since the Oldways Whole Grains Council’s last survey in 2018. In 2018, 42 percent said taste was a barrier, dropping to 33 percent of respondents in 2021.

These findings suggest that with increased exposure to whole grains, consumers may come to appreciate their nuttier, more robust flavors, notes the Oldways Whole Grains Council.

“Higher quality” carbs
Despite mainstream hype around low-carb and grain-free diets, the recent survey reveals that 95 percent of US consumers say their whole grain consumption has either increased or is holding steady compared with five years ago.

While it’s often assumed that low-carb dieters have lower whole grain consumption, survey respondents who say they avoid carbs are more likely to also report that:

They look for whole grains when shopping.
They nearly always choose whole grain options.
Their whole grain intake has increased in the last five years.

This may indicate that people are differentiating based on the nutritional quality of different carbohydrate sources and gravitating toward higher quality carbs, like whole grains.

Sustainable and plant-based drivers
Two-thirds of consumers consider whole grains to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. And sustainability is increasingly a factor in purchasing decisions.

The 2018 Whole Grains Consumer Insights Survey found that 12 percent of consumers chose whole grain options for sustainability. In 2021, this number rose to 19 percent of consumers that say sustainability is a factor in choosing whole grains.

Among Gen Z and Millennial consumers, this is an even stronger motivator, with 26 percent citing sustainability in their decision-making.

Forty percent of plant-based eaters – those who follow a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or plant-based diet – say they choose whole grains for environmental reasons.

Overall the survey found consumers who eat a plant-based diet prioritize foods that are healthy, whole grain, organic and sustainable, with price less of a concern.

Trust and transparency trending
The survey also found that a significant majority of consumers (70 percent) wish information about the whole grain content of products was included on product packaging.

This finding is in line with Innova Market Insights’ top trend for 2021: “Transparency Triumphs,” amid increased consumer interest to know more about their F&B.

In 2005, the Oldways Whole Grains Council introduced the Whole Grain Stamp. It appears on products that have undergone third-party certification and contain significant amounts of whole grains – at least 8 g per labeled serving.

The Whole Grain Stamp makes it easy to identify and compare whole grain products when shopping as it states the whole grain gram content of products.

New survey data indicate two-thirds of consumers say seeing third-party labeling, like the Whole Grain Stamp, gives them more confidence in the products they are buying.

Building consumer confidence
Trust in the Whole Grain Stamp has increased steadily, with 86 percent of all consumers now saying they trust the Whole Grain Stamp.

Consumer trust is even higher among young consumers (89 percent) and parents of young children (91 percent).

Three out of four consumers say they would use the Whole Grain Stamp as part of their purchasing decision.

Lastly, most consumers say they would be skeptical of any whole grain claims made on a product that did not use the Whole Grain Stamp. 
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