Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The new health "mantra" is "eat whole grains" for preventing many of the life style disorders being faced by the modern consumers in many countries, especially the wealthy ones. There are many industry players already offering whole grain foods, especially bakery products but Kraft Foods Inc is the most recent industry major who is embracing the whole grain food concept by declaring its intention to increase the whole grain content in many of its baked products. As the pressure piles up on the food processing industry to change their approach to developing and marketing new products, some hesitating steps are taken by the manufacturers to make some changes in their product portfolio, some helpful and others just symbolic to buy time. There is a distinct movement that is discernible, to at least give an impression that the industry really cares for the welfare of the consumers and continuing steps by the safety authorities world over is forcing the industry to be more transparent and willing to disclose the nature of foods they offer more meaningfully. It is against this context one has to watch the dynamics of changes that confront the industry and its response. The trillion calorie reduction commitment and 20% sodium reduction target augur well for the health of the consumers.

"Kraft Foods Inc. says it will more than double the amount of whole grain in many of its Nabisco crackers, becoming the latest food maker to respond to consumer and health advocates' demands for improved nutrition from packaged foods. Kraft will increase the whole grain in more than 100 products over the next three years, the company announced Monday. As a result, its Ritz and Premium crackers will contain whole grains for the first time. Whole grain will more than double and quadruple in the company's Wheat Thins crackers in its Honey Maid graham crackers. 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 give the grains a finer texture and helps improve shelf life. But it removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins, the USDA says".

Though these efforts are praise worthy viewed from a consumer angle, how such changes will affect the sensory quality of the original products is a matter of concern. Of course manufacturers like Kraft Foods, with lot of technological resources at their disposal, can improve the process to make the whole grain based products resemble the original ones and it is only the small scale players who are expected to face technical difficulties in making acceptable products containing high proportion of whole grains. But in actual experience the small scale processors are the ones who pioneered the health food revolution by using natural raw materials like whole grains in many products which compelled the big players also to jump into the bandwagon. Unless this trend continues to cover the entire industry unwary and uninformed consumers may still opt for foods made from refined ingredients because of their superior eating qualities. Ideally such an option should not be available though it will be difficult to enforce any industry-wide restrictions on recipes for processed foods.


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