CONVERSING WITH CONSUMERS
BY BRENNA MAHONEY
Consumers still question whether or not to eat wheat. Some are increasingly more confused and even scared about the consumption of wheat. The gluten-free trend continues to subside, but low-carb diets are undergoing a resurgence.
In response, Cereals Canada is spearheading a national wheat messaging strategy. Not a new concept, each province has invested in similar strategies. The Alberta Wheat Commission maintains Life’s Simple Ingredient and Grain Farmers of Ontario created Good in Every Grain. The new national messaging can complement these efforts, celebrating the importance of wheat in the Canadian diet.
The federal government has recently invested in a five-year, multi-million-dollar ad campaign to be launched this summer. Focusing the high standards employed by Canadian farms in their daily operations, it will also appeal to consumers to buy Canadian. The entire value chain can piggyback on this initiative, spreading the word Canadian wheat is beloved around the world and is a healthy ingredient consumers should have in their pantries.
An important aspect of the national wheat strategy will be to ensure its messaging is science-based. However, as consumers often make choices based on emotion, the campaign can’t deliver scientific facts alone.
Consumer surveys tell us Canadians want to be reassured that it is OK to eat wheat again. Counter to anti-wheat messages spread by questionable online sources, many studies illustrate the dietary benefits of consuming grains, including wheat. Celiac disease aside, such studies suggest there can even be negative impacts to removing grains from one’s diet.
One such study suggesting grains do not cause negative health effects was completed by the University of Saskatchewan in 2019. It examined the consumption patterns of grain-based foods among children, adolescents and adults in Canada. The study established eating grain-based foods is not linked to elevated body mass index. In other words, there is no difference in body mass index value between those who eat grains and those who do not.
The national wheat strategy will promote bread consumption while linking its messaging to scientific “proof points.” Cereals Canada intends to call upon its industry partners to aid in getting the word out to consumers and will provide this information to the health science community.
Among Canada’s trading partners, the country has a strong reputation for its clean, consistent, high-quality wheat, yet here at home, this is not always the perception. The best means to remedy this is with the participation of all members of the wheat value chain.
Consumers do not think of wheat as being Saskatchewan wheat or Ontario wheat, but rather, Canadian wheat.
Collaboration will be key to making this project impactful. Opportunities to collaborate will include working with Canada’s most valued export partners such as Mexico and Columbia. Such top markets are eager to work with Canada and to utilize our data and messaging to promote wheat consumption in their own countries. The power of the Canadian agricultural brand is a tool the wheat industry can leverage at home and abroad. Our trade partners can use it to benefit their sales in the ever-more complex consumer food environment.
Making the job of wheat promotion easier, consumers in Canada and abroad want information on Canadian food and how it is produced. Informed consumers can then purchase Canadian wheat with full confidence they’re making a healthy choice.