Why a Check-off?

A Grain Foods Industry Checkoff

Recognizing the recent trend of decline in consumer bread sales and overall wheat flour use, the Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) initiated an assessment of the need for a potential checkoff program that would seek to halt the decline in wheat flour use per capita and also position the industry to proactively identify and address future threats. GFF has evaluated the state of the grains category, the need and desire for a national industry promotions program, and an initial pilot plan for the program.

Through an initial feasibility study, GFF conducted stakeholder outreach, accumulated supporting data, and drafted an agreed-upon path forward. GFF is committed to continuing its engagement through strategic outreach to industry stakeholders about the goals of the checkoff.

Situation

Analysis shows that per capita sales of commercial bread have decreased by $3.78 billion since 2011. If this trend line continues for the next ten years, the category risk is estimated at $12.4 billion. Declines such as this have a profound impact not only on the grain food sector, but also on wheat farmers.

Currently, GFF is working to mitigate this trend through collaboration with industry organizations such as the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), the Wheat Foods Council, and various wheat commissions.

Market Trends of Wheat Flour Use (Disappearance) per Capita Index

Opportunities

Given the gravity of the threat to the sector, additional resources are needed. The primary goal of such a checkoff would be to stop the decline in wheat flour use per capita and position the industry to proactively identify and address future threats. The proposed checkoff would be an assessment on grain foods manufacturers, not wheat growers.

Checkoffs are designed to develop new markets (domestic and export), strengthen existing markets, conduct important consumer and scientific research, and promote industry initiatives and activities. They allow a sector to promote common benefits that are essential to convey but difficult to succinctly message.

Buttressing the efforts of GFF, a grain foods checkoff would complement the efforts of NAWG, the Wheat Foods Council, and the wheat commissions. Additionally, a checkoff would offer the grain foods sector several added benefits that their current advocacy structure does not provide, such as:

  • Ensuring that benefits to the entire sector are paid for by the entire sector.
  • Providing an implicit government “endorsement” to advocacy efforts.
  • Stabilizing funding to allow for better planning and optimal utilization of funds.

Industry Involvement

A grain foods industry checkoff would complement and enhance industry partners’ current efforts. For example, wheat grower checkoffs are currently focusing largely on pest, disease and wheat genetics research. Some messaging is around market development and the healthfulness of wheat products but, by and large, the focus is on benefits to farmers in the field.

The efforts of wheat growers to promote products would be complemented, and industry promotions would be coordinated, with the goal of reversing the downward trend in many grain foods sectors. Reversing that trend will provide benefits not only to grain foods companies but also to wheat growers, who will see demand for their products increase. In the current farm economy, increases in demand will be critical to the future success of America’s wheat farms.

Status

GFF completed a feasibility study in 2017 to assess the state of the grain foods category and evaluate the need and desire for a national industry promotion program among grain foods manufacturers. Given the broad internal support for action to combat the trend of declining wheat flour use and bread sales, GFF is now focused on connecting with stakeholders to ensure that all are informed and have heard about the process and decision points ahead.

The goal of the grain foods checkoff is to protect and promote wheat flour products overall, address specific threats to the bread category, and support industry innovation. Specific tactics to address these challenges will be developed after GFF initiates the formal process of establishing the checkoff through USDA.

Iceberg Metaphor

Industry Benefits

Adding Value for the Industry Now

The Grain Foods Foundation is conducting a feasibility study to assess the interest in establishing an industry checkoff program. Based on the feedback from our initial stakeholder assessment, the Foundation saw an opportunity to assess whether there is demand for a program to pool resources and strengthen the Foundation’s efforts to promote and protect the industry as a whole.

This feasibility study will be conducted over the next few months. During this time, we will continue our work to serve as the voice of the industry and to showcase the benefits of grains. Regardless of whether we pursue a checkoff program, the feasibility study process will yield insights that will help to advance our programming now and in the future.

Gaining Industry Insights

We have established a Steering Committee, including representatives of bakers and millers both large and small, to govern the process, establish parameters and guardrails, and ensure that all voices and perspectives are heard and considered. The Steering Committee has helped us gain a true understanding of the desire for this type of program, as well as the needs and goals of those in the industry.

We will further engage influential stakeholders through a variety of task force committees in order to gain a deeper understanding of the issues impacting the industry and identify opportunities to best protect and promote our products, tapping experts with knowledge and experience in key areas will help us to better understand, and ultimately address, the challenges and opportunities facing the industry. These experts will include diverse industry stakeholders such as millers, bakers, retailers, academics, associations, and allied partners.

A grain foods industry checkoff would complement and enhance industry partners’ current efforts. For example, wheat grower checkoffs are currently focusing largely on pest, disease, and wheat genetics research. Some messaging is around market development and the healthfulness of wheat products but, by and large, the focus is on benefits to farmers in the field.

The efforts of wheat growers to promote products would be complemented, and industry promotions would be coordinated, with the goal of reversing the downward trend in many grain foods sectors. Reversing that trend will provide benefits not only to grain foods companies but also to wheat growers, who will see demand for their products increase. In the current farm economy, increases in demand will be critical to the future success of America’s wheat farms.

Leveraging Learnings

The work of task force groups will be a valuable asset to the industry regardless of a checkoff program. Investing in this work will provide clear strategic guidance for the Grain Foods Foundation’s work, shaping both messaging and programming immediately and over the long term.

  • Consumer Research: Assess consumer behaviors and perceptions of the industry to help better inform programming and messaging.
  • Scientific Research: Engage academic experts to determine credible claims and nutritional benefits of the industry’s products.
  • Industry Innovation: Industry-wide assessments to identify key areas of opportunity for growth and development.

Campaign Benefits