Grains that meet customer needs
Thousands of wheat and flour samples are tested each year at the Ardent Mills Innovation Center and standard recipes are used to evaluate flour performance in baked goods.
By Cynthia Clanton
Combining grain and flour testing capabilities with an experimental milling room and professional culinary kitchen makes the Ardent Mills Innovation Center (AMIC) in Denver, Colo., a unique and vital asset to the company and its customers. The largest wheat miller in North America, Ardent Mills is jointly owned by Conagra Brands, Cargill and CHS.
Field samples of soon-to-be harvested wheat from across the country are tested at the AMIC to gauge qualities of the incoming crop and to begin planning which wheat goes to each mill to produce flour that meets customer needs. Those customers — food processors, consumer packaged goods companies and restaurants — expect flour to perform as expected so baking lines run reliably and final products are consistent, attractive and delicious.
Nearly three dozen Ardent Mills plants process traditional and organic grains. Each mill has an on-site testing lab, plus samples are sent to the AMIC for analysis and certification in its continuous monitoring program. About 50,000 samples per year are tested for moisture, protein, ash, falling number (an indication of sprouting), water absorption capacity, stability and more.
Environmental chambers allow AMIC specialists to use controlled warm and cold environments to test for things like microbial growth and dough response to freezing before baking.
In the AMIC bake lab, standard recipes for white and whole wheat bread, rolls, cakes, cookies, biscuits and pizza dough are used to test flour performance by measuring final product height and volume, browning and other visual characteristics.
In the center’s R&D space and kitchen, food scientists, chefs and nutritionists work with customers to find new uses for emerging grains, like toasted quinoa muffins and the chocolate chickpea cookies Ardent Mills culinary experts introduced at a recent food industry show.
Read more about how Ardent Mills brings new opportunities to growers.