Far more factors than before now figure into the baker’s choice of flour. Experts from ConAgra Mills, Omaha, NE — Neil Hartzell, director of transportation; Harold Ward, manager of technical services; and Kent Juliot, senior director of quality — discuss supply chain logistics, flour specs and food safety initiatives.

Baking & Snack: How has ConAgra Mills improved supply chain logistics for commercial bakery flour? Why did the company do this? Can you and/or your bakery customers document the results of these actions?

Neil Hartzell: We’re constantly improving our supply chain logistics to maintain our leadership position in the industry, and as such, we’ve made improvements in every stage from field to mill, at the mill and from mill to bakery. For example, we work with our shipping partners to institute seal and capacity utilization programs, which improve the food safety and efficiency of our inbound wheat. A capacity utilization program has also been instituted on our outbound products in conjunction with daily service reviews performed by carriers. We work with bulk vessel manufacturers and contract carriers to design and build more efficient vessels that have improved food safety standards for equipment and processes. This dedication to innovation and the improvements in our supply chain ultimately benefits our customers who understand the importance that ingredient supply chain ultimately plays into the success of their businesses.

What do you advise your bakery flour customers about writing specs so they get what their products need?

Harold Ward: I advise customers to review specifications every year with the new wheat crop. This allows the functional characteristics of wheat from a given crop to be accounted for in the specification.

What objective measures (types of tests, etc.) do you supply to verify the specs and traceability of your flours?

Mr. Ward: For verification of specs, we utilize the standard flour testing methods — moisture, ash, protein, farinograph, etc. — in conjunction with bake testing to gain a better understanding of functionality.

Tell us about food safety at ConAgra Mills.

Kent Juliot: Mills employs world class experts in food safety, engineering and packaging as well as a dedicated team of regionally based quality food safety specialists who serve as auditors, subject experts, trainers and program developers.

Each of our 23 mills is maintained to our pristine standards. All are compliant with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) efforts to improve plant food safety records, and all have attained certification from British Retail Consortium (BRC). We’ve improved our lab information systems with SAP, which lets us follow our product at every stage in the cycle — from the elevator, through milling, blending and to our customers’ door.

In 2011, we introduced a revolutionary new approach to flour food safety for sensitive applications; SafeGuard Ready-to-Eat Flour and the SafeGuard Treatment and Delivery System. SafeGuard’s lethality treatment maintains flour’s natural flavor, color, absorption, appearance and gluten functionality while achieving up to a 5-log validated pathogen reduction. Our patent-pending treatment and delivery system ensures the integrity of SafeGuard flour from door-to-door by mitigating microbiological recontamination in the post-process handling including bin storage, packaging and bulk loadout operations, and transportation.