Rubbing shoulders on the shelves with 'low-carb' friendly food products, wholegrains must reach out to the consumer to remain in the game. Cereal chemists in the US bring wholegrains into the user-friendly zone with a new, easy-to-understand definitition.
Stilted and above all difficult to comprehend, if proposals are cleared the old 1999 version may soon be ousted by a consumer-targeted version compiled by a recently formed 'cereal health task force'.
"AACC's original wholegrain definition was designed for use by industry and regulatory agencies and includes words that are neither easily understood by consumers nor helps them to select whole grain foods," said Julie Jones, chair of the AACC Grains in Health Task Force.
As the power of the Atkins-style diet - low-carb, high-protein - slowly chips away at sales of wholegrain foods the US wholegrain industry needs to not only defend market share, but gain back strayed consumers. And as the trend spreads to Europe, notably the UK, the need will apply to food manufacturers involved in wholegrains.
The popularity of wholegrains has, and will, find its roots in the potential health benefits. A wealth of scientific studies suggest that a diet rich in wholegrains protects against cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers thanks to their beneficial effects on risk factors such as high cholesterol and insulin resistance.
In 1999, the AACC board of directors cleared the following definition for cereal grains. "Whole grains shall consist of the intact, ground, cracked or flaked caryopsis, whose principal anatomical components - the starchy endosperm, germ and bran - are present in the same relative proportions as they exist in the intact caryopsis."
This stands against the new, more approachable consumer-friendly version proposed this week. "Whole cereal grains and foods made from them consist of the entire grain seed usually referred to as the kernel. The kernel is made of three components - the bran, the germ and the endosperm. If the kernel has been cracked, crushed or flaked, then in order to be called whole grain, it must retain nearly the same relative proportions of bran, germ and endosperm as the original grain.
Whole grain ingredients may be used whole, cooked, milled into flour and used to make breads and other products, or extruded or flaked to make cereal products."
Keen for feedback the AACC said this week that all comments on the proposed definition must be posted to the cereals body by 31 March, 2004. An online forum is available on the website to further the discussion.