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Whole Grains on the Rebound

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Whole grains are great for the food industry. They’re versatile, resilient and go into just about every single processed product on the grocery shelves, from cold cereal to cake mix, and even beverages (satiety smoothies are but one example of that).

bread.jpgLike probiotics and antioxidants, whole grains are giving Americans a leg up in the fight against obesity and poor diets. Even better, they’re being added as ingredients to foods without changing the food itself. So, we can eat sliced bread with “double the fiber” or whole grain muffins (OK, that might be a stretch) without having to do anything ourselves. The scenario reminds me of those cookbooks with recipes for sneaking vegetables into kids’ meals.

According to a new report out from Packaged Facts, U.S. retail sales in core grain foods that included rice, flour, oatmeal and dry grains reached just over $5 billion in 2008, a whopping 17% increase over the previous year. Manufacturers we’ve spoken with, such as Alvarado St. Bakery, make loaves with healthful sprouted wheat and other grains; French Meadow Bakery is introducing breads made with spelt and hemp, or specially formulated with grains and ingredients like plant sterols that promoting heart health.

Companies like Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mill offer plain grains, including some interesting ancient grains that are making their way back into the American lexicon (and onto the dinner plate). Choose aramanth, quinoa, kamut or even chia.

Retailers are doing their share, too, building promotions around grains (could you imagine such a thing even 5 years ago?). Just yesterday, Kroger Co. announced a partnership with the Grain Foods Foundation to benefit the nation’s food banks. According to officials, Kroger will promote the effort chainwide, in all of its 2,500 supermarkets, using floor decals slapped down in the commercial bread aisle.

(photo courtesy of swimboy1/Flickr)

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