The deal, projected to close by the end of year, would bring Ardent Mills “one of the largest portfolios of gluten-free, organic and non-GMO products in North America,” and would help “establish Ardent Mills as a complete solutions partner to our customers in the grains and specialty ingredient space,” Shrene White, general manager of The Annex by Ardent Mills, told FoodNavigator-USA.
She explained that the deal would not only allow Ardent Mills to offer a more diverse selection of enhanced gluten-free flours and mixes, but it also would reinforce its supply chain and bolster its research and development, technical and quality assurance teams.
In addition, she said, it would give Ardent Mills “an even stronger marketplace connection in the gluten-free and specialty spaces that will help our family farms get their gluten-free grains to the market faster.”
The deal comes at a time when consumer demand for gluten-free and specialty grains continues to gain momentum, even as the market matures.
Earlier this summer, a report from Research and Markets projected the global gluten-free baking mixes market would reach a projected $698.2m by 2028 – representing a 7.5% compound annual growth rate from 2021 to 2028.
“As we’ve seen for the past few years, the gluten-free and specialty market is growing and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, we continue to see significant growth as consumers look to foods that align with their individual values and dietary needs and wants,” White said.
Shopping spree targets specialty ingredients
The acquisition is the latest in a shopping spree that Ardent Mills began in 2019 and continued to pursue through the pandemic to diversify its portfolio.
“Ardent Mills has made several investments to keep up with this demand and be a leader in the specialty ingredient space, not only with this potential acquisition, but also with our acquisition of the business assets of Hinrichs Trading Company [in June 2021] and Andean Naturals [in February 2020], and our strategic investments in organic and specialty facilities,” White said.
Before the pandemic, Ardent Mills acquired an organic grain elevator in Klamath Falls, Ore., in 2019, and, in May 2019, added capabilities to its Denver RiNo community mill to clean and pack specialty grains.
“We regularly keep an eye out for potential acquisitions that make strategic sense for our business and deliver positive growth for our customers,” White added – suggesting the company may not stop with the Ardent Mills acquisition.
Shared values bolster strategic synergies
When evaluating potential acquisitions, Ardent Mills also considers whether targets share its values and dedication to innovation, as was the case with Firebird Artisan Mills.
“Ardent Mill’s values are trust, serving simplicity and safety. As a long-term partner of Ardent Mills, Firebird Artisan Mills shares these values with us, which is why we are so excited about this expected acquisition,” White said.
For example, she pointed to Firebird’s commitment to safety as illustrated by its best-in-class safety program and record, and their dedication to their customers, which “aligns with our vision to be the trusted partner in nurturing our customers, consumers and communities through innovation and nutritious grain-based solutions.”
Ultimately, White said, these shared values and passion “means growing our businesses alongside our customers, foreseeing their needs and providing that guidance for them.”