Grains foundation shifts approach

by Josh Sosland
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PARKER, COLO. — Reflecting a significantly different landscape than existed when the group was established three years ago, the Grain Foods Foundation said it is planning a new public education campaign reminding consumers that eating bread daily is a "simple and easy way to stay healthy and energized."

Rather than maintaining the defensive posture that was necessitated by the popularity of low-carbohydrate dieting earlier in the decade, the foundation has "secured an offensive position from which we can promote and celebrate the goodness of grains," said Judi Adams, president of the Grain Foods Foundation.

"We never fought Atkins head on, because we didn’t have the money, but we definitely were on the defensive our first couple of years," Ms. Adams said.

The idea that attitudes have changed is supported by data showing the percentage of women who believe bread is fattening has plunged to 6% in a recent survey, down from 19% in 2005.

Plans for the fourth year at the foundation include a partnership with a celebrity chef to launch a "smart snacking" promotion, to be supported through aggressive national publicity, consumer magazine advertising and retail point-of sale.

The campaign, which seeks to remind people to think of grain-based foods when they think about snacking, will appear in October issues of American Baby, Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Fitness and Parents.

"We’re trying to get grain-based foods into more eating occasions during the day and not just meals," Ms. Adams said. "It isn’t to get people to eat more food. But people do snack and when they do, we want them to consider healthy choices that could include bread and other grain-based foods."

A new graphic element that will play a central role in the year four campaign is the twist tie, long associated with bread packaging. The twist ties, shown around a finger or in an array of other creative settings, will serve as an eye-catching visual reminder for consumers to consider eating grain-based foods, Ms. Adams said.

Folic acid, which has been a significant focus of the foundation in the immensely successful campaign featuring former Miss America Susie Castillo, will receive considerable attention in the coming year, the G.F.F. said. With 2008 marking the tenth anniversary of mandatory folic acid fortification, the foundation with its partner the March of Dimes "will serve to reinforce the importance of enriched grain products in the prevention of birth defects," the foundation said.

Members of the foundation will have exclusive rights to use a folic acid seal on enriched grain products. The exclusivity will extend through the first six months of 2008, the duration of the campaign.

Also leveraging its March of Dimes partnership, the foundation will seek to raise awareness of the value of enriched grain products, particularly women of child-bearing age. The program will feature a celebrity mother who will be engaged to help drive national media coverage and will be part of a new public service campaign aimed a recognizing the industry’s 10-year commitment through fortification. The foundation will maintain its prominent presence at the largest WalkAmerica events around the country.

The fact the industry is no longer on the defensive does not mean the foundation should not be on guard and work to rebuild the image of its core products, Ms. Adams said.

"We aren’t forgetting that fad diets will be back," she said. "Whenever I hear people say, ‘the Atkins diet is gone,’ I remind myself that the person making the comment is young. Those of us who are older remember the many times that anti-carb diets have come around and that they will be back. And we need to be ready. We can’t let anti-carb take such a strong hold on the industry ever again. With the last Atkins craze, anti-carb went unanswered for far too long."

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