Grain Foods Gain Momentum
By Joel Crowder & Charlie Stout
Co-Chairmen, Board of Trustees
Grain Foods Foundation
In 2004, during the height of the low-carb movement, members of the baking and milling industries formed the Grain Foods Foundation. At the time, fad diets captured the attention of the American public. Bread and grains became a nutritional scapegoat while our industry was absent from the debate.
The Grain Foods Foundation was created to provide a unified voice for the industry and to educate the American public about the health benefits of grain-based foods in an effort to halt the decline of flour consumption.
Three years later, we have accomplished many of our initial objectives. Flour production has increased, and per capita consumption has stabilized. Low-carb diets no longer are in style, as today’s consumers prefer a more balanced dieting approach that includes exercise and moderation.
Best of all, consumer perceptions of bread and grains have shifted dramatically. More consumers realize that bread provides health benefits, and fewer Americans believe that bread is fattening, according to a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive.
During the past year, the foundation has made tremendous strides in educating consumers about the health benefits of bread and grains. Last fall, the GFF partnered with celebrity chef Dave Lieberman to launch America’s Healthy Sandwich Showdown — a search for the nation’s healthiest and best-tasting sandwich recipe.
Magazine ads ran in Family Circle, Fitness, Ladies’ Home Journal and Parents. Coverage included placements in major media outlets including the TODAY Show, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Times and USA Today. Additionally, during this promotional period, The Kroger Co. conducted an in-store promotional campaign in the bread aisle and experienced an increase of 6.2% in dollars, while units grew by 1.7% over the previous year.
A critical component of the Grain Foods Foundation’s work includes reinforcing the positive attributes of all grain products — especially white bread. The March of Dimes partnership provides a credible and valuable platform from which to share the health benefits of enriched grains throughout the year.
Furthermore, working with former Miss USA and MTV VJ Susie Castillo allowed the foundation to reach millions of younger women — those most susceptible to fad dieting. The GFF’s public service announcements featuring Castillo have reached nearly 390 million consumers through a variety of media channels, including InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Glamour and Self magazines, as well as television stations in major cities across the country and Wal-Mart’s in-store television network. The value of these placements is approaching $1 million.
For helping us get to where we are today, we’d like to thank George E. Deese, chairman of the board, CEO and president of Flowers Foods. As an original member of the Grain Foods Foundation Board of Trustees, George provided the group with a great deal of vision and insight for the future. More importantly, he was one of the key players in helping to forge partnerships in the industry in an effort to form the foundation.
We’d also like to thank and recognize every member of the Grain Foods Foundation Board of Trustees, who devote so much of their time in support of the entire industry:
J. Breck Barton, Cereal Foods Processors, Inc.
Don L. Brown, ConAgra Foods
Gary L. Cain, Allied Trades of the Baking Industry
Patrick J. Callaghan, Pepperidge Farm, Inc.
Mike Gude, BEMA, The baking industry suppliers association
Martha E. Hernandez, Bimbo Bakeries
James R. Munyon, American Institute of Baking
Gary J. Prince, Weston Foods, Inc.
Allen L. Shiver, Flowers Foods
Guy R. Shoemaker, Horizon Milling LLC/Cargill
Richard C. Siemer, Siemer Milling Co.
John Gillcrist, Bartlett Milling Co.
Joseph M. Schwebel, Schwebel Baking Co., Inc.
About the Authors: Joel Crowder is director of grocery merchandising and category management at The Kroger Co. Charlie Stout is president of Milner Milling.
Editor’s Note: For more information, contact Judi Adams, president, Grain Foods Foundation, at 1-970-626-5183, or e-mail her at Judi.Adams@grainsfoundation.org.
From the Desk of George Deese
I have been lucky to be a part of the baking industry for more than 40 years and to serve the American Bakers Association for eight years as a board member and chairman. During this time, I have seen the baking industry face some tough challenges.
The low-carb issue was on my mind back in 2002. The loud criticism of grain foods left our industry with little choice but to take action. It was time for our industry to realize that while bakers and millers had strong public policy advocate organizations, we did not have a strong public voice with consumers and the nutritional community.
I was not the only person thinking this. In fact, I remember exactly when the spark was lit. The American Bakers Association was having its executive session at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Fla. in 2002. Joe Schwebel of Schwebel Baking threw down the challenge and said, “Let’s do it.”
Two months later in July 2002, a group of us, including the ABA’s Paul Abenante; NAMA’s John Gillcrist, Betsy Faga, and Phil Strongin; and Gene Lord of Flowers, met at the Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., and pledged to support a joint venture for the future health of our industry. That was the founding of the Grain Foods Foundation.
The next two years were an incredible time as we built support for the GFF and watched members of our industry join hands and commit to three years of financial support. The result of our joint effort has been equally incredible.
Now, we are at a critical point in our effort. We must keep the good message about bread and grains out in front of consumers. It is imperative that every company in the grain foods industry realize that credible communication is vital to maintaining the integrity and image of our products in the minds of consumers—today and in the future. We have built a strong organization to project the nutritional values of grain-based foods, and we must continue to invest in it.
I hope that my colleagues in the industry think the same way. I’ve heard that not only are renewals coming in for another three years of support, but the contribution level is 20-50% higher than when we launched the GFF. That’s exactly what we need.
I’m pleased that Allen Shiver, president and COO of Flowers Foods’ Specialty Group, now is chairman of the GFF marketing committee. Allen has a strong background in marketing and brand development, and is responsible for our company’s marketing efforts. Allen is an outstanding team builder and will help take the GFF’s marketing and public relations to the next level.
I’m excited about what lies ahead for GFF and our industry. We still have much work to do. There are many people who don’t know about or understand the health benefits of grain foods. To paraphrase a slogan familiar to us: “GFF. It’s essential.” That’s as true today as ever.
Editor’s Note: George E. Deese is chairman, CEO & president of Thomasville, Ga.-based Flowers Foods.