Wheat Foods Council President Ready to Go On Offense In Gluten Free ConversationFri, 21 Aug 2015 05:57:31 CDT
The gluten free diet fad has caught the attention of many American consumers and caused a stomach ache for the wheat industry. That’s been a tough battle to fight for Tim O'Connor, President of the Wheat Foods Council that works to grow domestic demand for wheat and wheat products. He said gluten free resembles other fads like low-cholesterol, low fat and low carbohydrate diets. O'Connor said the only way to combat these campaigns is with science and facts. The Wheat Foods Council also broadens the discussion by working with influencers, a small group of people that interact with a much larger group.
“We keep them informed, we answer their questions, we debunk myths and we help them understand more about wheat and wheat products,” O'Connor said. “They in turn, are then able to communicate that information very broadly on our behalf.”
Radio Oklahoma Network Farm Director Ron Hays interviewed O'Connor during the Oklahoma Wheat Review held on Tuesday at Redlands Community College in El Reno. Click or tap on the LISTENBAR to listen to the full interview.
The wheat industry is starting to see signs the tide might be turning. Over the last six months, O'Connor has seen more media outlets reporting that gluten free isn’t everything it was promoted to be. The scare of gluten won’t go away overnight, but he is hoping the fad is running out of steam.
Over the next six months, the Wheat Foods Council is reviewing their strategies to chart their course for the future. While they have a huge library of research and scientific information about wheat, O'Connor said they will determine if there are any gaps in their science. The organization doesn’t have the budget to support big consumer campaigns, so they will continue using their strategy of "influencing the influencer". The Wheat Foods Council aims to determine which influencers have the best opportunity to get accurate messages out.
“We want to talk positively about wheat, we don’t want to always be putting a shield up and defending against wheat,” O'Connor said. “It’s hard to score points when you’re always playing defense, you have to play defense, but we need to play offense. It’s time to play some offense.”
The Wheat Foods Council is funded by grower organizations, like the Oklahoma Wheat Growers Association along with mills, bakers and equipment manufactures.
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