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Bread in terminal decline? 'We’re actually very positive about the future of grain-based foods,' says Ardent Mills

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By Elaine Watson+

07-Jul-2014
Last updated the 07-Jul-2014 at 15:52 GMT

Lackluster sales of packaged bread & ready-to-eat cereals might suggest that years of carb-bashing and changing lifestyles have finally driven some grain-based categories into terminal decline. However, flour milling giant Ardent Mills begs to differ.

Just because we’re not all sitting down for cereal & toast at breakfast, eating sandwiches for lunch and burgers (in a wheat bun)  for dinner doesn't mean there are not new opportunities in ethnic breads, handheld breakfast options and cupcakes that tap both into the changing demographics of America, but the eating patterns of Millennials, says the firm.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA at the IFT show, CEO Dan Dye and COO and chief integration officer Bill Stoufer said that combining the consumer insight and innovation skills of ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling will help Ardent Mills unlock new opportunities in whole grains, ancient grains and gluten-free products.  

Said Dan Dye: “We’re actually very positive about the future of grain-based foods. Consumer preferences are changing, but we know that there is also tremendous opportunity.”

Asked whether bigger was better, he said: “Our size doesn’t entitle us to anything. We have to earn our business and we have to be nimble, agile and mobile to win customers."

We’re actually very positive about the future of grain-based foods

Asked whether uncertainty about how the new business would be staffed had dented morale in the weeks before the JV was finally cleared by regulators on May 30, communication had been key, said Stoufer: “We were very clear and transparent with our employees throughout the process.”

Around 200 people will be moving to the firm’s new HQ at 1875 Lawrence Street Denver in the next 12 months or so, he added, noting that senior execs in the company had spent the last several weeks meeting suppliers and customers to explain to them what was happening.  

There would also be efficiency gains from moving to a single ERP system in the next 15 months, procurement savings, plus logistics/supply chain optimization, he added.

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