View Full Version : Article: Bread sales rise as low-carb diet frenzy subsides


strongernow
01-27-2005, 08:57 PM
Bread sales rise as low-carb diet frenzy subsides

Cynthia Hubert
Sacramento Bee
Posted January 27 2005


Carbohydrate, it seems, no longer is a dirty word.

The frenzy over diets that severely limit carbohydrates has subsided, industry observers agree. Specialty stores that cater to people following Atkins, South Beach and similar plans are closing across the country. Fewer products labeled "zero carb" or "low carb" are finding their way onto grocery shelves.

Though thousands of people still follow these diets with nearly evangelical devotion, a recent study found that many others have jumped off the bandwagon. As of November, 3.6 percent of those polled were following diets that focus on cutting carbohydrates, compared with more than 9 percent a year earlier, according to the research by NPD Group, an independent marketing company. Further, "virtually none" of those surveyed say they are reducing carbohydrates as much as the diets recommend.

The bread industry, for one, is celebrating. In February, it will launch its first major national campaign, a multimillion-dollar effort to counter the huge hit that it suffered in recent years at the hands of low-carbers, says Nancy Sarles, speaking for the Grain Foods Foundation.

In addition to dancing bread loaves in the streets, the campaign will feature whimsical Jumbotron images of "rolls and bread telling their stories"; advertisements in which slices ask the American public, "Remember me? Try to make a sandwich without me"; and a Web site touting the health benefits of bread and whole grains.

"We want people to know that bread is not the bad guy," Sarles says. "There are good carbs and bad carbs, and grain-based foods can be very healthy."

American dieters seem to be coming to that conclusion on their own, as sales of bread products have begun to rebound.

At the height of the low-carbohydrate craze, sales of white bread dropped by as much as 8 percent, says Matt Hall, vice president for communications for the Sara Lee Bakery Group. Consumption of wheat flour fell steadily and dramatically. Some mills closed and others filed for bankruptcy.

But recently the industry has started to recover, thanks to increased interest in whole-grain products.

A new line of breads called Delightful, with fewer calories and lower carbohydrates than the company's regular offerings, has resonated with consumers.

The federal government, in its updated diet guidelines, placed a stronger emphasis on whole grains that contain "good" carbohydrates. The new "food pyramid" advises people to choose whole grains such as whole-wheat bread rather than refined ones such as white bread.

The most recent incarnation of the low-carbohydrate movement spawned an entire industry of products, from breads and cakes to cookies, chips and beer. Some of the items have disappeared, and others are in less demand than they were a year or more ago, industry observers say.