The baking industry has changed in the five years since the creation of Ardent Mills. The company has stayed alert to those changes and will continue to do so, said Dan Dye, chief executive officer of the Denver-based company, on Sept. 9 at the International Baking Industry Exposition.
“We recognize we have a need for almost constant innovation,” he said.
With flour demand flat to declining slightly, Ardent Mills seeks to find pockets of growth for both the company and its customers.
Ardent Mills was formed as a joint venture between CHS, Conagra Brands (then ConAgra Foods) and Cargill in 2014. Gluten-free was expanding as a category five years ago, but other trends have emerged.
Ardent Mills has expanded in ancient grains, Mr. Dye said. Working with quinoa growers in Colorado gives bakers a domestic source and allows farmers to save on water. Ardent Mills has become involved in heirloom wheat varieties like white Sonora or spelt and in in pulses like chickpeas. Ardent Mills has expanded in whole wheat flours and organic wheat flour as well as world flours like semolina and Neapolitan-style, Mr. Dye said. The company is turning a Denver mill into a specialty mill with specialty equipment to clean different grains.
The Annex by Ardent Mills, a new business unit founded in 2018, focuses specifically in the specialty area. The Annex has opened the door to a new group of customers that Ardent Mills was not thinking about five years ago, Mr. Dye said. They often are smaller, niche players with room to grow, perhaps growing from one local bakery to three, then reaching broader to other states and then perhaps national distribution, he said.
Ardent Mills also has created a new position, a chief growth officer, and expects to name a new hire for that position soon, Mr. Dye said.