Bakers need to consider the supply chain efficiencies offered by their flour millers, according to Doug Dewitt, vice-president of customer and business development, Bay State Milling, Quincy, MA, in this exclusive Baking & Snack Q&A. Also in this report, Jennifer Robinson, vice-president of corporate quality assurance for the company, examines new responsibilities bakers will have under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Baking & Snack: How has Bay State Milling 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?

Doug Dewitt: Bay State Milling has improved the flour supply chain by providing a comprehensive product offering spanning conventional flours, specialty flours, and grain blends from a single integrated milling company. We pioneered the concept of destination milling, whereby our mills are located close to our customers and metropolitan cities. This allows us to be very flexible and service-oriented, able to meet constantly changing customer needs with short lead times optimizing inventories and freight costs.

We improve supply chain efficiencies from freight and working capital perspectives by providing a wide array of key ingredients as bundled or blended products with flour. Working with Bay State allows our customers to become more efficient through custom ingredient consolidation or by confidently embracing creativity through new and different flours and grain blends. In this way, we help simplify business for our customers, reduce the cost of managing multiple suppliers and reduce transaction costs.

Our product applications and technical service teams always work with our customers to optimize the cost, quality and the performance of grain-based foods by understanding requirements and delivering consistent quality every day. In addition, we work hard to help support unique needs around performance, taste and nutrition.

Managing complex supply chains from farm to fork and identity preservation are core to Bay State Milling and ensure the quality and integrity of our products, particularly with respect to organic, specialty flours, grain blends and gluten-free products.

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

Jennifer Robinson: We advise our customers to focus on the performance of the finished product when writing their specifications. Year-to-year crop changes will drive varying levels of protein, ash and rheological properties. Therefore, it is important for customers to recognize there is variation in the raw material, the process, sampling and analytical analysis, and whenever possible, they should allow for tolerances around any values established that are inclusive of these variation sources. 

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

Ms. Robinson: Typical values found on a Certificate of Analysis include moisture, ash, protein and falling number. Depending on the application, granulation or rheological values may also be reported.

The Bio-terrorism Act established requirements for being able to trace one step forward and one step back within 24 hours. Record keeping for traceability begins at the grain elevator prior to receipt at the mill, if applicable, and follows the milling process through to capture of where finished product is sent. The Certificate of Analysis lists the specified lot(s) that were delivered to the customer to aid in traceability efforts.

How will the new Food Safety Modernization Act affect the record-keeping responsibilities of users of flour? Will bulk flour be treated different from bagged flour? What do you advise your wholesale bakery customers about this matter?

Ms. Robinson: The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) allows the Food and Drug Administration much broader access to records relating to foods that may cause serious adverse health consequences or death to human or animals. Thus, it is imperative that all activities taken as part of your food safety, quality and regulatory programs be documented to provide evidence of actions taken.

Actions that should be documented include records of activity, findings, identification of root causes and appropriate address of non-conformances, as applicable. Management meetings where food safety, quality and regulatory programs are discussed should be thoroughly documented to provide evidence this information was utilized to drive business planning.

The nature of our business also requires a better understanding of the entire supply chain from farm to fork. Companies must understand and manage the risks associated with ingredients and be knowledgeable of the policies and practices of selected vendors. Ingredient and vendor approval programs should be documented and records maintained.

At the end of the day, FSMA provides challenges and opportunities for flour users. The increase in accurate documentation is a challenge, but it also provides an open window into their supplier’s practices and allows them to select a vendor based on a documented track record for safety and quality.