Ardent Mills considers itself as more than just a milling company. Formed three years ago through the combining of milling assets from ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling, Ardent Mills was created “to change the way people think about grain-based foods,” said Dan Dye, chief executive officer.
Headquartered in Denver and with more than 40 mills, mix facilities and a specialty bakery across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, Ardent Mills focuses on four core values: trust, serving, simplicity and safety. Speaking to members from the American Bakers Association’s Food Technical Regulatory Affairs Committee last week, Mr. Dye said defining its culture was foundational for Ardent Mills from the beginning.
“We wanted to become an organization that makes a difference and changes the way people think about grain-based foods,” Mr. Dye said. “We have a vision that’s all about being a trusted partner. We build trust and partnership by nurturing customers, consumers and communities.”
The Ardent Mills Innovation Center (AMIC), which has been open at the company’s headquarters for a little more than a year, supports its vision through milling, baking and analytical research.
The AMIC employs about 20 people in five labs. In addition to milling, baking and analysis, it also houses an R.&D. lab and culinary center.
The analytical lab has a variety of tests for the grain it uses, including particle size, color, moisture, protein and ash. Each year, roughly 38,000 samples run through the AMIC’s analytical lab in addition to thousands of products — including bread, cookies, pastries, Kaiser rolls and more — that are made in the bake lab.
Ardent Mills tests everything from wheat that has been shipped to mills but not yet produced, to milled wheat for quality assurance, or even wheat samples from new crop harvest.
The bake lab houses two small bread lines that can produce up to 48 loaves a day on each line, and the milling lab sifts, cleans, tempers and mills wheat on an experimental level.
In addition to the Denver headquarters and one of two mills in Colorado, the company’s Commerce City mill — known as the “home of Ultragrain” — runs three shifts five to six days a week and turns out up to 1.8 million lbs of flour a day that’s shipped coast to coast. The mill is BRC-certified and conducts annual internal audits and mill assessments. Customer audits occur approximately once a month, and the company also offers tours and classes nearly every week in Commerce City and at the AMIC in Denver.
All of this goes to support Ardent Mills’ initiative to actively participate in the baking industry and highlight the positive benefits of grain-based foods.
“Wheat gets to the consumer in a very short period of time — from the mill to the restaurant, grocery store or kitchen table — so consumer insight is very important,” Mr. Dye said. “We give back to our communities through innovative and nutritious grain-based food solutions. We believe ‘innovative and nutritious’ can go together; we have great grain-based products that are good for you and an important part of the diet. That’s a job we take very seriously.”
Ardent Mills also innovates through its Mobile Innovation Center (MIC), which is on display at IFT2017, taking place June 25-28, in Las Vegas. A 53-foot semi-truck, the MIC was launched in 2014 as a way to bring education on grain-based foods — as well as brand awareness for the then-newly formed Ardent Mills — to customers’ front door. In the MIC, Ardent Mills provides its customers an opportunity to learn the basics of the company’s products and use them to create foods such as pizza crust or pasta.
“This is an opportunity to teach customers about key trends going on in the industry,” said Jamie Russell, marketing manager, Ardent Mills. “We’ve talked at a high level about the enlightened eating trend to tell a story about our ingredients and what they provide, as well as the authenticity of how we provide those ingredients.”
The MIC has traveled across the country and to Canada, and later this year will make its way to Puerto Rico.
At IFT, the MIC is showcasing an all-new look and awning. Additionally, the MIC will feature a rotating menu each day of the show for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks. Also highlighted is the new Ardent Mills Great Plains Quinoa, which is grown in North America and has unique sourcing capabilities for volume and scale.
Nature’s Color Barley, part of a new portfolio of products that includes Pure-Purple Barley, Blackjack Barley and True-Blue Barley in flakes, flour and kernels.
Ardent Mills’ MIC can be found at IFT Booth No. 1062.