This is the next in our series of Supply Side Innovators featured in our Bake Twentyfive issue. Each weekday, we will spotlight a new Supply Side Innovator that can help you create the flavors, textures, and designs your customers will love.

Consumers are demanding more meaningful connections to their foods. This is a big trend that manifests in many ways, says Don Trouba, senior director, Go-to-Market, The Annex by Ardent Mills. For example, people are seeking highly individualized approaches to their diets and are making food choices based on personal or planetary health — or both. At the same time, consumers are connecting to food not only by learning about its history, growing and production, but also by engaging with farmers and producers through technology.

Finally, Trouba adds, a renaissance of traditional ingredients and cooking methods is beginning to surface, even though we live in a world focused on convenience. “When it comes to innovation for retail bakeries, the first place we like to start is with our broad portfolio,” he says. “With more than 150 years of milling legacy, we offer a complete array of traditional bakery flours for any formula that a retail baker might use. But that’s just the start. We also offer innovative ingredients that can deliver whole grain nutrition with little or no impact on flavor and functionality as well as gluten-free ingredients, ancient and heirloom grains, and even pulses like chickpea flour to boost plant-based protein.

“One of the parts of our portfolio many people don’t know about, however, are our savory baking mixes and our multigrain and seed blends,” Trouba adds. “Together, ingredients like these can jumpstart innovation for retail bakers by giving them a ready-to-use mix for a new application, or by taking the complexity out of managing multiple SKUs in the case of multigrain and seed baked goods.”

Ardent Mills understands that innovation can be challenging, “and we’re proud of the fact that from the facilities to the people, we have what it takes to enable new ideas and help bring them to life,” Trouba says. “Whether it’s at our flagship Ardent Mills Innovation Center (AMIC) at our headquarters in Denver, or our commercial artisan bakery — Innovative Bakery Resources (IBR) — in Portland, Oregon, our R&D and technical baking teams are constantly developing new ideas and concepts as well as supporting customers. We’re proud to have food scientists, technical bakers and a certified master baker on staff, all helping to drive innovation for us and our customers.”

Trouba points out that it starts with readily available innovative ingredients, including customizable grain and seed blends, as well as savory baking mixes. These are the workhorses of differentiated foods in the retail bakery space. From there Ardent Mills offers a number of formulas and starter recipes to help customers get their ideas off the ground.

For businesses that need pilot or trial capability, the IBR team provides a bridge between lab ideas and commercial reality. Once a product has been tweaked to perfection in the lab, the IBR team tackles the challenge of duplicating it in large-scale, real-world production facilities. “The milling and baking industries will continue to deliver more customized solutions to clients,” Trouba says. “Ingredient suppliers and product developers will work together more closely and collaboratively as customer tastes and demands continue to require greater levels of customization.”

Fast facts

The Annex by Ardent Mills is a business unit of Ardent Mills that is cultivating the future of specialty grains and plant-based ingredients. It’s supported by a dedicated team committed to exploring what’s next in whole grains, pulses, mixes, custom multigrain blends and finished breads. Its broad portfolio includes ancient and heirloom grains, organic grains and flours, sprouted wheat and chickpeas.

Established in 2013 and located in Tualatin, Oregon, in a 92,000 square-foot facility, Innovative Bakery Resources produces in-house customized formulations to meet customer needs.