By Jordan Hildebrand
Wheat has become an easy punching bag for fad diets and those who profit from them. This practice won’t last long if the Wheat Foods Council (WFC) has its way. The WFC has adopted a strategic plan to help inform consumers about the merits of wheat foods by influencing the influencers and telling the story of wheat.
Tim O’Connor, WFC president, said that the main initiatives the new plan focuses on are building relationships with dieticians and personal trainers, as well as improving the images of enriched wheat products and modern breeding and farming practices. O’Connor pointed out that WFC has been building a relationship with dieticians for years, and now that the relationship with that profession is firmly established, the next step is to reach out to personal trainers.
“Wheat Foods Council had really built a communication pathway with registered dieticians that we could harvest. We didn’t need to keep building it, it was already there,” said O’Connor. “We were an inch wide and a mile deep on our positioning. Now we can start to shift our focus onto personal trainers, another key group in that arena.”
While some may be initially hesitant to ask for dietary advice from trainers, men and women in the profession report fielding more nutrition related questions than ever before. This is an opportunity for the wheat industry to reach out to trainers and share the merits that wheat can have in an active lifestyle.
“When we are able to get more of them to understand that fad diets are just fads, and that there are very successful athletes who don’t use those diets, we’ll be able to demonstrate the success of those athletes with the backing of science,” said O’Connor.
Steps to reach out to personal trainers include attending two industry conferences within the next two months, a micro-site specifically geared toward trainers, developing a continuing education module and recruiting a small advisory board comprised of reputable figures in the exercise world.
“We’re looking at the top people in the exercise research field who also agree with our message,” reported O’Connor. “We’re aiming for the people whose presentations and research are consistently geared toward clear science and nutrition.”
While it’s exciting to help wheat have a voice in the gym, it’s also important for wheat to have a seat at consumers’ tables.
“We heard from the industry about working in the enriched wheat and the modern wheat breeding spaces,” said O’Connor. “Those were industry voices telling us, ‘These are our problems that if you could move the needle on, it would really help us.'”
Efforts have already been poured into improving the image of modern wheat with WFC’s new video series “Talking Wheat.” Topics of the five-part series include farming practices, sustainability and facts about gluten-free diets.
While Kansas farmers are busy discussing the crop conditions and wondering if the rain will ever come back, there are people who have never been to a farm or even seen a real wheat field that are trying to wade through the murky waters of dietary advice. WFC’s goal is to help wheat remain a player in the nutrition game.
“If you’re not investing in the domestic marketplace, which is a very mature and competitive marketplace, others with opposing messages are,” said O’Connor. “The wheat industry can be pushed backward if we don’t have a voice where others do.”