LIFE’S SIMPLE INGREDIENT
NEW CAMPAIGN OFFERS SIMPLE TRUTHS ON WELL-ROUNDED WHEAT
BY GEOFF GEDDES
In our high-tech, fast-paced world, many are convinced that the more complex the concept, the better it must be. That’s why a new campaign from the Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) is like a breath of fresh air on a crisp Prairie morning. Sporting the tagline “life’s simple ingredient,” the campaign encourages consumers to feel good about eating wheat.
While wheat itself may be a simple ingredient, cooking up the campaign was a bit more involved. “We saw the growing farm-totable movement as an opportunity to be a champion for wheat,” said Tom Steve, general manager of AWC. “As a farmer-led organization, our first major task was to learn more about connecting with Alberta’s urban public. This process led us to a key observation: wheat is highly respected and people appreciate its many benefits, not to mention its great taste.”
Though the public rates wheat and wheat farmers as the most trusted area of production agriculture, wheat sales have been challenged by food trends, such as gluten-free. It was against this backdrop that a campaign emerged to cut through the clutter and share some simple truths about a grain that has served as a staple of healthy diets for thousands of years.
A SIMPLER TIME
Ever since Lord Selkirk harvested the first wheat crop on the Canadian Prairies back in 1815, consumers have viewed the grain as closely tied with Alberta’s history and a reflection of farm values and traditions. Globally, wheat has sustained families for centuries and accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s food calories. In many respects, wheat is ingrained in our culture and our way of life.
A SIMPLE MESSAGE
In creating the campaign, AWC gathered information on people’s perceptions of wheat and found three qualities that were cited consistently: healthy, wholesome and nutritious. If there’s a common theme, it could be the peace of mind that flows from serving yourself and your family food that is rich in fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Also highly valued in AWC’s surveys was the versatility of wheat, reflected in a vast number of wheat-based food choices, including cereals, breads, pasta, pastries and other baked goods. Few ingredients are as well represented in culinary creations around the world and flexible enough to be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and even dessert.
A SIMPLE CHOICE
Given the many assets of wholegrain Alberta wheat, and considering consumer priorities, the theme of the campaign became clear.
“‘Life’s simple ingredient’ just seemed to fit on so many levels,” said Katie Samoleski, account director with AdFarm, who worked with AWC on the campaign. “It ties into the healthy lifestyle that wheat supports and the idea of enjoying time with family in the kitchen or savouring food together. It’s about the products we love to eat and feel good about eating.”
In this context, “simple” has a double meaning. Not only does it represent happy and healthy families making sound food choices, but it also celebrates the simplicity of wheat itself in this age of highly processed menu options that are quickly falling out of favour with the health-conscious.
“Our approach to food has really changed over the last five or six years,” said chef Lisa Ruscica, chief food ambassador for Kids & Company, which operates 95 child care centres across Canada. In addition to being a member of the program advisory committee for George Brown College’s Canadian Food and Nutrition Program, Ruscica belongs to the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management.
“People are more aware of what they eat now than ever before,” she said. “At the same time, they often think they are making healthy choices when there may be a lot of other stuff in the products they buy that is detrimental.”
That’s why everything Kids & Company serves to children is made from scratch, and why whole-grain wheat figures prominently on the menu. “We serve a morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack, and wheat is a big component of all three,” she said.
How big? How about wholewheat bagels, pancakes, banana bread, tortillas, pasta, crackers, and even tasty yet healthy treats like apple crisp and blueberry muffins?
While parents appreciate the nutritional value of whole-wheat products, “the kids love the taste and texture,” said Ruscica. “These foods are not too sweet or sour, and the taste buds of children are highly attuned as they have yet to be desensitized by coffee or smoking.”
THE SIMPE TRUTH
Despite certain highly hyped fad diets, you won’t see any carb cutting in Ruscica’s kitchens.
“Carbs provide fuel for your brain and energy for your body, as well as critical fibre for reducing cholesterol,” she said. “The reason you get carbohydrate cravings is that your brain needs it to function properly and grains are the best source of carbs you can find.”
That may help explain why wheat is a staple around the globe. “Whether it’s pitas and tzatziki in the Middle East or tacos and burritos in Mexico, wheat is part of almost every culture,” said Ruscica. “Ever since the days of hunting and gathering, it was about eating a balanced diet, and that’s still our focus today.”
Of course, things have changed over the years. “My generation was very brand loyal, so if you liked Coke you didn’t switch to Pepsi,” said Ruscica. While kids today are less averse to change, there’s one area where Ruscica said they won’t waver if you start them on the right foot.
“If you as a family make a conscious choice to only eat wholegrain and whole-wheat products, your kids will eat that way for the rest of their lives,” she said.
So it’s no wonder they’re calling wheat “life’s simple ingredient.” When you find something that is nutritious, delicious, versatile and good for your body and brain, you simply can’t go wrong.