Majority of Americans believe they should embrace more whole grains

25 August 20234 min reading

A sweeping 77% of American consumers are acknowledging the call for more frequent inclusion of whole grains in their diets, as revealed by a fresh survey conducted by the Oldways Whole Grains Council. The recently unveiled 2023 Whole Grain Consumer Insights Survey has illuminated numerous signs of a burgeoning inclination among consumers to opt for whole grain foods. This shift isn't solely motivated by health advantages but is also attributed to the perception of whole grains as delectable and ecologically responsible choices.

The Oldways Whole Grains Council's survey asked 1,500 American adults about their whole grain eating habits and perceptions. The findings show clear trends in consumer demand for whole grain products, in the roles that price and sustainability play in purchasing decisions, and in the trust that consumers place in third-party packaging symbols including the Whole Grain Stamp. Notably, this survey found that more than 33% of Americans say they have started eating more whole grains in the past five years, and 61% say they now choose whole grains at least half the time.

With whole grain intake on the rise, consumers are increasingly turning to the Whole Grain Stamp as a trusted tool for identifying whole grain products. More than half of consumers say they've increased their whole grain intake over the past five years, but the vast majority (77%) also say they think they should be choosing whole grains more often.

It may be no surprise, then, that an increasing number of Americans (79% in 2023, compared with 70% in 2021) say they wish information about the whole grain content of products was included on product packaging. And with about two-thirds of consumers (64%) say seeing third-party packaging symbols gives them more confidence in the products they are purchasing, it's clear that symbols like the Whole Grain Stamp are providing an essential tool to consumers, offering them both whole-grain content information and the piece of mind that comes with third-party certification.

Inflation has caused food prices to increase at alarming rates over the past few years and consumers are feeling the effects. The percentage of consumers who cited the price of products as a major factor in their purchasing decisions rose this year, from 47% in 2021 to 51% in 2023. The survey also found that younger generations are much more likely to cite cost as a significant barrier to whole grain consumption (37% of Gen Z, 29% of Millennials, 27% of Gen X, 19% of Boomers, 13% of Silent Generation). Efforts to achieve price parity between whole and refined grain products may be more important than ever right now.

Fad diets that involve low- or no-carb eating patterns or that recommend avoiding gluten without a medical diagnosis appear to be on the decline. The survey found that fewer people say they are avoiding carbs (16% in 2023, compared with 18% in 2021), and among Gen Z and Millennial consumers the numbers are even lower – only 10% of these younger generations are avoiding carbs. Although one quarter of consumers told us they have cut back on gluten somewhat, 94% of people say they eat gluten some or all of the time. This year, significantly more people are not avoiding gluten at all compared to two years ago (70% in 2023, compared with 66% in 2021).

Millennials are significantly more focused on the sustainability benefits of whole grains compared to other generations, with 24% of this group saying they choose whole grains for that reason (compared with 14% among Gen Z, Gen X, Boomers, and the Silent Generation). Millennials are more likely to choose foods that are environmentally sustainable and good for the climate (27%, compared with 23% of all consumers), and they are more likely to buy organic food (32%, compared with 23% of all consumers). Three-quarters of Millennials (72%) say they think of whole grains when they think of foods that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

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