Dave Sheluga, director of consumer insights for Ardent Mills, discussed the concept of 'enlightened eating" at the 2015 NRA Show. 

Many misconceptions continue to exist with regard to consumers eating healthier, says Dave Sheluga, director of consumer insights for Ardent Mills. To help understand the issue and how to address consumer demand for healthier options, Sheluga explains that three key consumer trends have fused into one megatrend called “enlightening eating.”

First, consumers are demanding local foods, bringing about the term locavore to describe them. Another notable trend is the quest to buy products from companies that consumers consider ethical or committed to sustainability. Finally, there is the purity trend, which includes GMO-free, organic and gluten-free. All rolled into one, these trends point to a pressing need for grain-based food companies to examine the trend toward enlightened eating.

“Right now, these enlightened eaters are highly educated, very high income and live in trendy food cities,” Sheluga says, speaking at the National Restaurant Association Show 2015 in Chicago. “But this is going to permeate through all of society.”

More consumers in the future, he says, will be seeking out foods that are fresh, local, in season and preferably organic. Further, consumers will want to cook from scratch, avoid packaged foods, choose wisely and seek “deliciousness.”

For those who address the enlightened eating trend successfully, “it will be the difference between flat sales and 20 percent, 30 percent or 40 percent growth in the future,” he adds.

Ardent Mills showcased what’s next in grain innovation at NRA 2015. The company is driving innovation for foodservice in three important ways: Making it simple to mainstream whole grains on the whole menu, helping foodservice operations meet the needs of “enlightened eaters” and providing specialty bread solutions from its artisan bakery.

At the NRA Show, Ardent Mills showcased finished baked goods from its IBR facility, an artisan commercial bakery located in Portland, Oregon. Equal parts baking facility and think tank, IBR is where cutting-edge concepts meet high-touch craftsmanship to help restaurant chains and foodservice operators introduce signature bread and baked good menu items. NRA Show attendees will have the opportunity to sample a variety of culinary concepts based on these unique breads produced in the bakery and available to commercial restaurants.
Driving grain innovation has never been more engaging than with the new Ardent Mills Mobile Innovation Center (MIC)—a state-of-the-art culinary center with a multipurpose platform designed to bring on-site culinary creativity, hands-on education and interactive R&D support right to customers’ front doors. Working side by side with Ardent Mills’ chefs, food scientists and technical bakers, the MIC allows companies to learn how the Ardent Mills portfolio of ingredients and services can help turn their next great idea into a reality.

On average, Americans still do not get the recommended intake of whole grains. Restaurants can play an important role in helping Americans meet dietary guidelines by incorporating whole grain nutrition into everyday foods. Ardent Mills is dedicated to assisting the foodservice industry with making the change to whole grains with ingredients such as Ultragrain whole wheat flour, which makes it easy to provide whole grain nutrition with the taste, texture and appearance that consumers expect.

“Powered by an industry-leading portfolio of premium multi-use flours, whole grains, organic grains, sprouted grains, specialty products and custom blends,” says Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills, “we are the go-to resource for restaurant chains and foodservice operators to develop insight-driven, nutritious menu solutions.”