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Record Domestic Wheat Consumption in 2022-23

Posted: Mar 02 2023

Domestic wheat consumption doesn’t offer capture headline news because it tends to increase only marginally from year to year with few major changes.  However, given that half (or sometimes) more of our U.S. wheat crop is consumed right here, domestic consumption is an important component of our demand base.  The vast majority of domestic wheat consumption is for food use with only about 6-7% used for feed in recent years.  For the 2023 marketing year, USDA is projecting record domestic food use of 975 million bushels.  Hard red spring wheat food use is also projected to reach a record of 269 million bushels, an increase of nearly 10% over last year.  Domestic use amongst wheat classes, especially HRS and HRW, tends to shift based on supplies and quality.  In 2021 domestic use of HRS declined due to substantially lower supplies. In 2022 the HRW area suffered from a drought and more demand shifted back to HRS.  While domestic durum food use is projected to increase 5% this year, it is expected to fall short of the record 88 million bushels seen in 2020-21.

The trends in domestic consumption are based off shifts in diet trends. Domestic consumption has ebbed and flowed in recent years, along with trends in fad diets. Low carbohydrate diets, such as Atkins, South Beach, Paleo and others promise quick weight loss.  Gluten free diets have promised consumers they will feel better and resolve many health issues.  While many consumers see short-term gains, the diets tend not to be sustainable or have lasting long term effects.  Unless a person actually has celiac disease or other digestive problems with gluten, the diets are often unnecessary.  These diets have peaked and now died down in recent years.  

The NDWC works on domestic promotion primarily through the Wheat Foods Council (WFC).  According to Tim O’Connor, President of the WFC, the COVID pandemic also spurred changes in diets and eating habits.  “COVID forced families to prepare more meals at home with wheat foods playing a prominent role in these recipes.  Home baking also saw a resurgence during this period,” he says.  For many, those shifts in food consumption stayed on even after the pandemic.  In the U.S. there was actually record flour production in 2022.  Domestic flour production reached 430 million cwts, up 2% from 2021 and the widest year to year gain in 15 years.  Semolina production was also up from last, but fell short of the record seen in 2020.

WFC tracks how the media covers topics of importance to the industry, it is one tool to gauge trends and consumer attitudes towards wheat.  In 2015, 34% of the media coverage on wheat was on the topic of gluten free diets and that was the peak of the gluten free trend.  By June of 2019, only 10% of media coverage was on that topic and it plummeted to only 2% by January of this year.  In the near term, views of wheat foods and domestic wheat consumption trends appear positive.  However, diet and food consumption trends are hard to predict so the NDWC and WFC will continue to work to promote healthy wheat food consumption using science based information.

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