Shrene White, GM of The Annex by Ardent Mills – a new business unit launched two years ago – told this site that the company is operating really strong – from the flour milling facility to its bakeries and plants – to keep customer orders filled, but with a careful eye on monitoring the environment and keeping employees safe.
She added the product in most demand right now is retail flour going to grocery stores.
“People are nervous, they’re a little bit scared and we have seen a lot of extra buying,” she said.
“[But people need that assurance] that we continue to buy wheat from our farmers … our flour mills are still running … we’re packing more flour into bags today than we have before … and product will continue to be on that grocery store shelf.
“Just being able to mobilise our team to pack and get that product to our customers so that they can then get it into grocery stores has been really phenomenal,” she added.
The company has stepped up to help those in need by donating more than 55,000 pounds of product to food banks and multiple bakeries to support what’s been happening on a local level. While it continues to hire more people as needs arise, it has even been able to open up some of the opportunities for family members who have been furloughed or are out of work because of the crisis.
What’s next in speciality grains?
During its two years of operation, The Annex has undertaken a slew of acquisitions, partnerships and new product developments.
Don Trouba, senior director of Ardent Mills’ Go-to Market, told us the business unit was launched with the purpose to cultivate the future of speciality grains in plant-based ingredients.
“We like to talk about what’s next – whether that’s a whole grain … a pulse … a mix of those types of ingredients … a custom multigrain blend or even finished bread – our purpose is really to build on that capability of Ardent Mills to deliver the nutritious and innovative grain-based solutions,” he said.
The Annex places emphasis on making connections with the grain breeders and growers to understand the characteristics and the qualities that are in demand from consumers, and working to make sure it has a viable supply chain to bring those things to market.
“We’ve done a lot of work in the past to understand what the consumer is looking for in this space and we’ve come up with what we call our Drivers of Innovation,” added White.
“We look at pockets like Owning Your Own Health, The Wholesome Story, Eating For Good, Modern Traditions and Eating Without Compromise, and each of those pockets have specific consumer needs that we’re able to share with our customers that might help them introduce a new product with one of our gains.”
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Recently, Ardent Mills announced its acquisition of Andean Naturals’ quinoa operation in Yuba City, California; its Denver Mills expanded its capabilities to clean and pack intact grains; The Annex ramped up its chickpea flour production and launched Net Carb Application Mix – a dairy-free, vegan and no-added-sugar mix developed for consumers pursuing a low-carbohydrate diet.
We also chat to White and Shrene about the company’s Organic Initiative; its partnership with FoodMaven to sell its transitional wheat flour; and how the company is coping with the coronavirus crisis.