PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Crafting one global message to promote consumption of whole grain snacks may prove difficult. That’s because globally, no common definition, no common usage level and no common guidance on health benefits exist for whole grains, said Sonia Hartunian-Sowa, Ph.D., an associate principal scientist with Mondelēz International.
“So this creates obviously some big challenges,” she said in a presentation at the AACC International annual meeting Oct. 7 in Providence.
Mondelēz takes a regional approach in sourcing and promoting whole grain snacks such as Wheat Thins, belVita and Honey Maid.
In North America, Mondelēz may follow an AACC International whole grain definition that the Food and Drug Administration recognizes, she said.
“Here in North America, we probably have some of the strongest guidance,” Dr. Hartunian-Sowa said.
In Europe, a Healthgrain project has developed a whole grain definition, but it may not be used as a health claim, she said. European consumers also have different tendencies than Americans. They are more likely to want whole grains visible in the finished product.
“Consumers really want to see whole grains in Europe because if they don’t see them, they don’t really believe it,” Dr. Hartunian-Sowa said.
Europeans also may be more wary of pesticide use in crops, including whole grain crops. Mondelēz runs a Project Harmony in Europe that strives for lower pesticide use, lower fertilizer use and good economic practices, she said.
The areas of Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and South America are still in different stages of developing a whole grain definition, Dr. Hartunian-Sowa said.
Except for Australia and New Zealand, there is a “low consideration” for whole grains in Asia Pacific, she said.
“Asia Pacific doesn’t really talk about whole grains, message about whole grains,” Dr. Hartunian-Sowa said. “Consumers aren’t necessarily looking for whole grains.”
Domenico Cassone, a food scientist for Mondelēz, spoke about sourcing wheat globally for whole grain products. Soft wheat flour is abundant in North America, and the company wants to expand that supply globally. The company in overseas countries faces such issues as starch damage, vomitoxin and the need for harvest management. Multiple mills may supply flour to the same bakery.
Mondelēz also might be introducing a whole grain item to consumers in certain regions in the world.
“How do we develop products that taste good, because if we lose our consumer with taste, we’ve lost them forever,” Mr. Cassone said. “So how do we bring them along slowly?”
Mondelēz in different global regions may start by offering products with lower levels of whole grain.
Whole grains fit into the “mindful snacking” approach for Mondelēz, Dr. Hartunian-Sowa said. Among its goals to reach by 2020, the company wants to increase whole grain use in its products by 25%.
She pointed to recent achievements. Wheat Thins, which once had 5 grams of whole grain per serving, are up to 10 to 21 grams per serving, depending on the variety. Teddy Grahams products, popular among children, now provide 8 grams of whole grain per serving.“We are very, very conscious of nutrition, and nutrition is always top of line,” Dr. Hartunian-Sowa said. “That’s why I took this position a year ago in nutrition communications because I believe strongly in that category.”