Branded food and consumer products company Sara Lee Corporation, has introduced a white bread made with whole grain.

Sara Lee's newest innovation is a fresh bread that is so soft, smooth and white that even the most discerning white-bread lovers - children - won't know that it provides a good source of whole grains in every two-slice serving, the company said. Call it stealth health.

New Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread hits store shelves across the country where Sara Lee breads are sold as a first of its kind - a bread made with a blend of enriched flour and whole-grain flour that gives tried-and-true white-bread lovers the taste, texture and appearance of white bread, but delivers whole-grain nutrition. In addition to its white-bread taste, Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread offers; good source of whole grains per serving (two slices), or 8 grammes; a good source of fibre 3 gramme per serving, the same amount as 100% whole-wheat bread; a good source of vitamin D and the vitamin B folic acid, an excellent source of calcium and no trans fat or artificial colours or flavours

"Health experts are calling for more whole-grain consumption, but we know more Americans eat white bread than any other kind of packaged bread and won't sacrifice that taste and texture," said Bill Nictakis, president of Sara Lee Food & Beverage's US Fresh Bakery unit. "Using a flour blend to ensure the taste and appearance of white bread is the best way to reach a large cross-section of white-bread consumers and really drive whole-grain consumption. Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread delivers on this delicate proposition: whole-grain benefits, white-bread taste. That's why we say the future of whole grains for many Americans is white bread."

Whole-grain bread sales have increased dramatically over the past few years, but more loaves of enriched white sandwich bread are sold than any other kind of bread in America. Of the 5 billion pounds of packaged fresh bread sold in the past year, 47% of sales were white bread, the largest-selling segment. The combined segment of enriched wheat and whole-wheat sandwich breads accounted for 27% of sales, wide-pan bread loaves, which are particularly popular on the West Coast, accounted for 13% of sales, and other breads, such as rye, pumpernickel and cinnamon and raisin breads made up 13% of sales, according to Information Resources Inc. data ending June 12, 2005, the latest available. Information Resources tracks and projects bread sales in grocery stores and discount and mass merchandise stores.

The volume of white-bread sales declined 7.2% over the past year, while wheat and whole-wheat sandwich breads sales increased 3.4%, according to Information Resources data.

In the new MyPyramid Food Guide System, the US Department of Agriculture calls for Americans to balance their consumption of whole-grain foods with enriched-grain foods and to consume at least three 1-ounce servings of whole-grain foods.

Studies have shown that the average American consumes less than 1 serving of whole grains a day, and more alarming, four out of 10 teenagers and children never consume whole grains.

"With the USDA's recent recommendation for Americans to make half their grains whole, many consumers are searching for a way to do just that, but without sacrificing great taste," said Frances Coletta, R.D., Ph.D., director of product nutrition for Sara Lee Food & Beverage. "Consumers are used to thinking about transitional products in the dairy aisle - moving from whole milk to 2% milk to skim milk. Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread can help many consumers make the transition to whole grains without shocking their taste expectations."

Surveys also show that Americans understand the benefits of whole-grain foods, but the largest barriers to consuming more whole-wheat and whole-grain breads are color, texture, softness and taste.

White-bread lovers are very demanding in how their favourite white bread tastes. In developing its new bread, Sara Lee conducted numerous taste-test panels to evaluate different recipes, settling on a flour blend that uses approximately 70% enriched flour and 30 percent whole-grain flour. Recipes that used more than 30% whole-grain flour showed a significant drop off in consumer acceptance in taste tests.