No doubt fuelled by the likes of poo-obsessed TV nutritionist Gillian McKeith, healthy breads and, specifically, whole grains, have seen a revival over the last five years, with the focus being on maintaining a healthy gut. Heart health, on the other hand, has fallen somewhat off the radar. As one industry insider stated, during the course of researching this feature, "The health claims are amazing, yet the Brits seem to concentrate on bowels!"

While most heart-health claims related to wholegrain foods have so far been made by breakfast cereal suppliers (see pg 34), this could be set to change with the introduction of the Whole Grains Stamp to the UK, which is being taken up on bread products. An American initiative, the stamp has lifted the US market for wholegrain products from 1% growth in 2001-2004, to 18% in 2005.

It no doubt played a small hand in the rise of wholegrain product launches too, which doubled between 2005 to 2006, according to Mintel’s Global New Product database. The stamp, which helps consumers identify wholegrain foods was, at the last count, being used on over 1,700 products in the US, 23% of which are breads or bagels.

Paul Morrow, managing director of British Bakels, says bakers have yet to tap the full marketing potential of whole grains. "Food giants such as Nestlé (Shredded Wheat and Shreddies) and PepsiCo (Walkers’ SunBites crisps) have realised the opportunities that whole grain offers and are now advertising these products heavily. Bakers will also benefit from this, as it will raise awareness of whole grain in the diet."

Bakels is the first to make the stamp available to UK bakers to use on packaging and labelling as part of a point-of-sale package that includes posters, shelf talkers and leaflets. Its message is ’It just takes 2’, as two medium slices of its multi wholegrain bread (2x41g) would give consumers 48g of whole grain - the recommended daily amount in many countries, and more than treble the current UK average.

Holding back whole grain in the UK has been a lack of any industry-wide definition, confusion over EU legislation on health claims, and the lack of agreed minimum levels of whole grains before making claims. Now that this has changed (see below and pg 34), the Whole Grains Council believes the stamp could take off over here.

"This is potentially huge for the UK baking market," says Cynthia Harriman, director of food and nutrition strategies for the US Whole Grains Council, a non-profit-making organisation. "In the first nine months of 2007 alone, bakers worldwide launched more than 500 wholegrain products, accounting for one-third of all new wholegrain launches. Wholegrain bread is wildly popular, and we want to help UK bakers benefit from the growing consumer interest."

While the UK bread market has traditionally been dominated by white bread, the last five years have seen a boom in brown and wholemeal, which is rapidly catching up with white bread. Brown and wholemeal bread are now worth a fifth of the total value market for bread and bakery products, with expenditure up 75% in just five years, according to Key Note’s latest bakery report.

Eyeing the opportunity is a newcomer to the UK, Danish firm Valsemøllen, which launched into the UK at the Baking Industry Exhibition in April, offering conventional and organic bread mixes, concentrates, premixes and improvers. "We’re focusing a lot on whole grain - it’s important in Denmark right now. UK bakers are showing a big interest in our organic products," says export manager Bo Sander.

Meanwhile, established UK players, such as BakeMark, have seen low-GI, high-fibre bread products fast become category staples: "We’re focusing heavily on taste and health across our product ranges, but particularly in breads, with the development of our healthy choices such as Seeds ’n’ Grains," says Vera Malhotra, head of marketing. "There will be more to come in this area in 2008."

Meanwhile, the wrapped breads category has seen a slew of healthier bread product launches in the last two years. "Now more than ever, consumers are looking for added health benefits from staples such as bread," says Sarah Miskell, category director at Warburtons, which launched a Wholemeal Fibre Boost 800g loaf in February. New product development such as this will no doubt kick the category on: in 2007 the brown and wholemeal bread market was worth just over £700 million - up from £400m in 2004, with a 15% increase on 2006. This contrasts with the white bread sector, where spend has slowly declined, dropping £40m to be worth £962m last year.

But before you all get carried away, Key Note states: "The brown and wholemeal bread sector has tended to be much smaller than the white bread sector, mainly because of some consumer resistance to its taste and texture, compared with the blander products available within the white bread sector. At the same time, it was seen as less interesting and less exciting than the speciality and ethnic sector."


=== So what’s new? ===

DSM has launched a new enzyme, BakeZyme WholeGain, which is designed to help wholegrain bread manufacturers overcome the common problems associated with producing high-fibre bread, such as reduced volume and unappealing crumb. The enzyme is claimed to increase dough tolerance by enabling better gluten development and improves proofing stability... British Bakels has introduced New Multi Wholegrain Bread Concentrate, which contains four different types of grains and rye flour. It is added to wholemeal flour to give high-fibre bread that contains 60% wholegrain and the concentrate is used on a 50/50 ratio with the wholemeal flour.... Country Choice has launched three artisanal-style loaves, produced in France. Supplied frozen, ready-to-bake, all three 400g varieties are made by traditional methods, which include hand-cutting, rustic decoration and baking on the stone floor of the oven. They include a Malted Grain Baton, Sourdough Boule, and the Premium Seeded Batard


=== Who’s buying whole grain? ===

l UK interest in wholegrain products is still heavily centred on gut health issues. However, there is a growing awareness of the benefits of a low-GI diet, both in terms of weight control and in the control of blood sugar and prevention of diabetes.

l In the US, however, heart health has been by far the most important single issue behind the phenomenal growth of wholegrain products in recent years. This particular benefit of wholegrain foods has yet to achieve such widespread recognition in the UK and the market could perhaps benefit from greater promotion of this issue.

l While white breads made with hidden wholegrain flours are popular as a way to improve the diets of children, adult consumers are more likely to choose wholegrain breads with ’bits’. Grain or seeded products represent the fastest-growing sector of the wrapped bread market, up 30-35% in 2006.

Source: Bakels/Leatherhead Food International: The UK Bakery Market 2007


=== Labelling: whole grains ===

In November 2007, a definition of ’whole grains’ was agreed in the UK by a food industry working group, which also recommended a level of inclusion for whole grains in foods.

Market analyst IGD’s Working Group on nutrition, which had representation from the Flour Advisory Bureau, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Premier Foods among others, recommended that packaged goods claiming the presence of whole grain should contain at least 8g of whole grain per serving.

This term ’whole grain’ refers to the edible entire grain after removal of inedible parts, such as the hull and glume. It must include the entire germ, endosperm and bran. The whole grain definition includes grains that have been subjected to processing - milling, cracking, crushing, rolling, flaking and extrusion - but only if, after processing, the proportions of the germ, endosperm and bran are present in the same or virtually the same proportions as the original grain.

Temporary separation of whole grain constituents during processing for later recombination is deemed acceptable, provided the proportions of the germ, endosperm and bran are the same or virtually the same as in the original grain. Simply adding together these three whole grain constituents as separate ingredients does not constitute a whole grain and making a claim that it does could be misleading to consumers, it states.

Different varieties of the same grain may be combined during processing and be called whole grain - for example, different varieties of wheat - as long as the final product contains the component parts of the grain in line with their pre-processed proportions. Recombined bran, germ and endosperm from different cereals - for example, wheat plus oats - would not qualify as whole grain.

For packaged foods stating ’contains whole grains’ or ’with whole grains’, it was recommended that foods should contain a minimum level of 8g whole grain per serving, based on final batch load proportions. This forms the basis of the Whole Grains Stamp, which has been rolled out across whole grain products in the US. Source: IGD


=== Stake your claim ===

As of December 2006, EU legislation lays down rules for the use of health or nutritional claims on foodstuffs across the EU and seeks to ensure that any claim made on a food label in the EU is clear, accurate and substantiated. This includes all nutrition and health claims. So how can the whole grain content be assessed in foods highlighting the presence of whole grain?

In line with EU labelling legislation 2, highlighting the inclusion of whole grain on a food package - for example, by stating ’with whole grain’ or ’made with whole grains’ - will automatically trigger the requirement to provide a Quantitative Ingredient Declaration (QUID). This provides a mechanism for consumers and other interested parties to assess the level of whole grain that is present.

The benefits of whole grains have been ratified by the Joint Health Claims Initiative, a UK government body set up to review health claims. They approved wording on heart health claims that ’People with a healthy heart tend to eat more wholegrain foods as part of a healthy lifestyle’.

What you can say:

l Eat more whole grain foods

l Look out for ’whole’ on the label - wholemeal, whole wheat, whole oats are all whole grains

l Choose brown varieties of bread, rice and pasta

l Eating more wholegrain and high-fibre foods forms a key part of a healthy, balanced diet