Dan Dye – Ardent Mills

(Dan) Hi I’m Dan Dye, CEO of Ardent Mills. And Ardent Mills is a new organization, we started about back in the end of May as as joint venture with the flour milling businesses of Cargill and CHS, called Horizon Milling and ConAgra Foods called ConAgra Mills to create Ardent Mills. It really was about a partnership of bringing organizations together as we looked forward into the future and looked for innovative and new ways to serve our customers better, to bring healthy and nutritious grain-based solutions to the market, and really kind of think about the market differently. A partnership together of our organizations just seemed to make good sense and as we explored it further, had further discussions, that’s where we landed as a joint venture operating independently. We’re based in Denver. And our focus is really on being a trusted partner to bring those innovative and nutritious grain-based solutions to the market place. I think when we operate our mills and our facilities we’re always looking to try to be the most efficient and effective we can to create the most value for the customer. And use the qualities of the wheat in the most specific way possible to create the best outgoing product. I think one of the things that we’re always looking at is the condition of the crop each year. And even in different parts of the country that can be different. And so as we look at all the different characteristics of the wheat, we’ll do a lot of testing and a lot of research and baking and so forth to see how that wheat performs and then work with our customers to get the best wheat to meet that product for that consumer that the customer needs. And so that working together across those areas, doing the research and the testing with our technical solutions folks and our quality people in our plants and then our central bake labs, all of those things working together allow us to take the wheat, really look and assess and analyze it and then see it how it will perform, and then monitor and watch and work with the customer on that performance. And that way we can create again, the most value for that farm as we take the wheat that they produce, bring it to the best market for that wheat. I think with grain-based foods, it all starts with the farm. It all starts with growing and producing, in our case wheat and other grains that we use in our products. And the partnership and relationship with farmers is key to that. And we want to help farmers be more successful, create more markets for their products, create new ways to use what they grow and take it right to the consumer. I think the consumer more and more wants to know the story of their food. And that starts on the farm. And so partnering together with farmers we work on specific varieties for different products, create better value with better margins for the farmer, create more alternatives for them, and really recognize the importance of that agri food supply chain, starting at the farm. And that’s really important to our mills. And we have relationships. We want to build on those and be an advocate for our farmer customers that are supplying us wheat but also bringing new markets for them and building stronger partnerships as we go forward. I think one of the challenges we have in grain-based foods today is there’s a lot of questions about gluten free diets and about the wholeness of grain, is it good for you and so forth? I think our challenge is to really tell the story of the goodness of grain and really work together across different aspects. Work with farmers to grow the best crops. Work with the consumers and the consumer product goods company as we look at trying to find solutions for the concerns out there. We have great products, important part of a balanced diet. Safe, affordable nutritious food ingredients that we can produce. And yet we have to do that in a matter that meets the consumer need. And so we’re really trying to bring innovation to bear to listen to the consumer, to bring new ideas to bear to create new products that will meet those consumer needs and to utilize technology and innovation and new ways of thinking to bring growth and excitement. Whole grains is a great example of that where as we look forward with our ultra grain products for example, it’s a whole grain product that’s got a really nice texture and coarseness and color, similar to flour but has the goodness of whole grain that can be used in a variety of different products and has great taste and texture. Or using some of the ancient grain and different specialty grains that help meet some of the gluten free needs or other different dynamics that are changing in people’s diets and people’s desires. So it’s really finding ways and pockets and areas of growth in grain-based foods meeting consumer needs, and being innovative and challenging kind of the status quo of thinking about that and look towards the future. And we want to work with universities, with seed companies across the industry, with growers to create opportunities in this space so that we can continue to be competitive with wheat and continue to compete for acres and have wheat be a viable crop that not only yields well on the farm and gets a good return for our farmers, but also then turns into a product that meets consumer needs and when you can bring those together, that’s a win-win for everybody. And that’s a focus that we have in our mills is looking towards the future and putting those two pieces together.

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