The Good Word About Grains

By Allen Shiver
President and COO
Flowers Foods Specialty Group
Chairman, GFF Marketing Committee

In the 24 months since the primetime launch of the Grains for LIFE campaign in February 2005, the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) has greatly influenced positive changes in how Americans think about grain foods. In a world cluttered with conflicting and ever-changing information about food and health, this is something our industry can take pride in.
Let’s look at how far we’ve traveled in just two short years. After years of decline, flour production is growing, and grain consumption has leveled off. The tone of media coverage has shifted dramatically, as well. In 2004, 55% of coverage about our industry was negative. In 2006, negative coverage had dropped to just 5%. While other factors must be considered in this reversal, the impact of the GFF’s efforts cannot be denied.
Millers and bakers formed the GFF when the low-carb movement was in full swing, feeding the American public with erroneous information about diet and health. Absent from this public discussion were messages from our industry.
Enter the GFF — charged with providing a unified voice for the industry, combating the low-carb movement and halting the decline of grain consumption. Today, research shows that most consumers now believe in a common-sense approach to eating that incorporates a wide variety of foods, including grains. Just as encouraging is that no Atkins successor has been able to gain any widespread appeal.
The GFF has been effective because its Grains for LIFE campaign is influencing consumer attitudes through the media, at the retail level where people make purchasing decisions and in local communities around the country.
Leveraging the popularity of today’s chefs, the GFF has partnered with culinary celebrities such as Ted Allen, Todd English, Dave Lieberman and Sara Moulton to promote the health benefits of bread and grains.
The GFF’s most recent campaign, “America’s Healthy Sandwich Showdown,” encouraged consumers to enter their favorite sandwich recipes for a chance to win a trip to Sandwich, England. The campaign was promoted through magazine advertising in Family Circle, Fitness, Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents, as well as in Kroger supermarkets and online. Dave Lieberman’s media appeal and the overall popularity of sandwiches generated outstanding national coverage, including an appearance on the “Today” show. The GFF’s sandwich contest generated more than 108 million impressions that carried the good word about grains.
Earlier this year, the GFF was in the midst of its Healthy Baby Campaign, designed to promote the health benefits of enriched grains — specifically, white bread. A partnership with the March of Dimes provides credibility to the campaign’s overarching folic acid message. Reaching younger women who are generally more susceptible to fad diets is critical, so the GFF partnered with Susie Castillo, an MTV veejay and Miss USA 2003. Through print and broadcast public service announcements, as well as retail support and aggressive publicity outreach, the GFF has penetrated new media outlets with its folic acid message.
The overall results of the Grains for LIFE campaign have been outstanding and have certainly played a significant role in shaping public opinion … but the battle is far from over. While the GFF has provided a strong, credible voice for the industry, continued support for its efforts is critical if we are to continue promoting the benefits of grain foods. When a GFF staff or board member calls on you for financial support, I hope you’ll agree that your contribution is a worthwhile investment.
Editor’s Note: For more information about the Grain Foods Foundation, visit