Innova: Healthy growth in wholegrains

Interest in the health benefits of wholegrains is continuing to rise globally and is reflected in levels of new product activity being recorded on the Innova Database (

According to Innova Market Insights, the number of food and drinks launches marketed on a wholegrain platform rose nearly 10% in the 12-month period to the end of March 2010, equivalent to about 3% of total launches recorded over that timeframe. Bakery and cereal products accounted for two-thirds of total wholegrain launches recorded, with the next largest categories being ready meals & meal components and then snacks.

While evidence of rising interest is evident in many markets, particularly the UK and some other Western European countries, it is the US that continues to drive developments, reflecting the ongoing use of FDA-permitted health claims relating to heart disease risk reduction and whole-grain-rich diets.

The Innova Database recorded over 1,500 food and drinks launches in the US with a wholegrains positioning over the April 2009 to March 2010 period, up 7% over a 12-month period and more than four times the number recorded five years previously.

Bakery and cereal products accounted for 60% of the wholegrain launches, with breakfast cereals leading, just ahead of bread products, then biscuits and cereal bars. The mature and highly competitive $10bn-US breakfast cereals market has, in fact, managed to pull back from its previous long-term decline via a repositioning of many of its products on a health platform, with the use of claims relating to wholegrains helping to transform the functional breakfast cereals market, with large numbers of companies going over to wholegrains for many of their brands.

The number two US RTE cereals company, General Mills, has gone over to wholegrains for all its brands and started to actively market many of them, including the market leading Cheerios range, on that platform.

In the bread and bakery market, the use of wholegrains is also now fairly widespread, but while initial activity driving the market forward in the mid 2000s focused fairly strongly on heart health, more recently there has been a move to a more general health positioning and the use of wholegrains has become much more widespread, with products tending to be marketed more on a high-fibre or general health and wellbeing platform, although some wholegrain breads still use heart healthy messages on pack, particularly the rising number now also containing oats or other ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids.

In Europe, levels of interest in wholegrains are also now rising, led by the UK and Germany. Overall, Innova Market Insights recorded nearly 1,500 food and drinks launches in Western Europe that were marketed on a wholegrains platform, with the UK accounting for a leading third of that. About two-thirds of UK wholegrain launches recorded over the April 2009 to March 2010 period were of bakery and cereal products, led by breakfast cereals which alone accounted for a quarter.

As in the US, wholegrain positioning has largely moved away from its initial specific heart health emphasis in most cases, with the exception of Shredded Wheat and Shredded Wheat Bitesize, where there is still strong heart health imagery used on pack in terms of the product name inside a heart shape. Brands such as Shreddies now focus on sustained energy release and Cheerios on general health and wellness, while Weetabix, carrying the The Wholegrain Cereal strapline, focuses on a more general health message about goodness and the essential nutrients in the product.

After the UK it is probably Germany that has seen the greatest interest in wholegrain lines, although the market is much less developed. The number of launches on a wholegrain platform rose by over 75% in the 12 months to the end of March 2010, with over half of activity in the bakery and cereals sector. A notable arrival in the autumn of 2009 was the Nestlé Shreddies brand from the UK, marketed as containing 95% wholegrains.

According to Innova Market Insights Head of Research LuAnn Williams, “The wholegrains concept appears to be continuing to go from strength to strength in the US and indeed interest appears to be spreading internationally following on from this lead. Outside the US, the wholegrain message appears to be focused more on a general health and wellbeing platform, while in the US there is still a strong focus on heart health, particularly in the cereals sector.”

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