Kraft Foods says it will more than double the amount of whole grain in many of itsNabiscocrackers, becoming the latest food maker to respond to consumer and health advocates' demands for improved nutrition from packaged foods.
In fact, the Northfield, Ill.-based producer will increase whole grains in more than 100 products over the next three years. As a result, itsRitz andPremium crackers will contain whole grains for the first time.
Whole grains are considered a part of a healthy diet, adding necessary fiber and nutrients. They help reduce the risk of heart disease, improve digestion, provide essential nutrients and may help control weight, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While most Americans consume enough grains, few are whole grains.
Whole grains use the entire grain kernel, but many packaged foods are made with refined grains that have been milled to remove the bran and germ. This process gives the grains a finer texture and helps improve shelf life, but it removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins, the USDA says.
Kraft says the move was a response to consumer demand for healthier products. The company already used whole grains in its Triscuit crackers and increased the amount of whole grains in some of its Wheat Thins products last summer. As a result, some of its products such as OriginalWheat ThinsandHoney Maidoriginal products will only use whole grains.
The company declined to disclose the cost of the change but said the process has been underway for four years as it tried to find formulas that allowed the addition of whole grains without compromising taste or quality.
"We can make products activists or regulators want, but if consumers don't eat them, it doesn't help them or us," says Rhonda Jordan, president of health and wellness for Kraft.