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Understanding grains—and who’s eating them

Understanding the different types of grains and who is most inclined to embrace or avoid them provides marketers and manufacturers key guidance.

Grains are a staple in diets around the world. They can be used in myriad ways, are affordable and offer important health benefits. While many consider grains an essential component of a healthy diet, others actively eschew grains and adopt eating regimens such as a low/no carb or paleo. Understanding the different types of grains, their potential benefits and drawbacks, and who is most inclined to embrace or avoid them provides marketers and manufacturers key guidance in what to bring to market and who the key market is.

Defining grains

Grains can generally be broken down into two broad categories: whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains refer to the grain in its original form and contains the entire kernel. Some examples of whole grains include brown rice, oats or whole wheat. Because this type of grain includes the entire grain, it maintains all its nutritional integrity. Refined grains, on the other hand, have been milled and processed, which can strip them of many essential nutrients. These include “white” products—white rice, flour or bread—as well as other types of crackers, cereals or products made with these grains. Many refined grains are enriched, meaning some of the nutrients such as iron or B vitamins (including folic acid) are added back into the product to replenish those eliminated or reduced via processing.

Market data on grain use

The most recent 2019 Health & Wellness Trends Survey, which highlights consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward a wide array of issues related to trends in foods and beverage usage, shows that while a majority of the general population has used whole grains in the past year—and about 2 in 10 have actually increased their usage—"well beings” (consumers who are actively engaged in multiple aspects of health and wellness) show significantly higher usage rates on both metrics than either the general population or other segments.

To read this article in its entirety, check out the Grains redefined: Formulating for healthy products – digital magazine.

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