Great change is under way in grain-based foods

by Josh Sosland
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Globalization is a concept not often associated with grain-based foods. Bread, the industry’s principal consumer product, is still mostly marketed within a short distance from the plants where it is made. Even branded pasta, perhaps the most portable of consumer foods made in the industry, enjoys a quite small international presence. It is only the base ingredients, wheat and a few other grains, that have a position benefiting from global trade. Yet, developments are under way that seem to herald the rapid approach of major change prompted by realigned industry ownership.

Hardly anything underscores this shift more strongly than the announcement that one of Japan’s major food companies, a major flour miller at home and already the owner of two plants in the United States, has entered into an agreement to purchase four more mills. As a result, this subsidiary of Nisshin Seifun Group rises to be among the top rank of U.S. flour millers. Having come to North America through Canada, Nisshin has shown itself to be an able competitor in American milling.

The rise of a Japanese company to a leading position in flour milling makes milling similar to wholesale baking, where a firm based in Mexico is the leading player, and to such fields as ingredient mixes, yeast and food service that also have foreign-based companies in leading roles. Yes, globalization has come to grain-based foods, but in a different way than might have been expected. So far at least, these great changes have many positives.

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