Organic ingredient suppliers work to meet demand

by Jeff Gelski
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Organic wheat
U.S. sales of organic grain-based food approached $1 billion in 2016.

KANSAS CITY — One word might describe what grain-based foods companies are looking for from organic ingredient suppliers: more. More organic wheat, yeast, dough strengtheners, oils and other ingredients are needed to create enough organic food items to meet consumer demand.

U.S. sales of organic grain-based food approached $1 billion in 2016, according to Nielsen Scantrack retail sales for the 52-week period ended in November, said David Sheluga, consumer insights director for Ardent Mills, Denver.

“Probably the biggest issues that have been keeping sales of organic grain-based foods from an even higher growth rate is uncertainty around the scale of supply and quality,” said Zack Sanders, director of marketing for Ardent Mills. “At Ardent Mills, we recognized that this was a barrier for many food manufacturers and food service operators, and now with additional milling network and our farmer relationships, we have removed those barriers.”

A survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture released last September showed 12,818 certified organic farms in the United States sold a total of $6.2 billion in organic products in 2015, up 13% from $5.5 billion in 2014. The industry shows potential for production growth as existing organic producers are transitioning another 151,000 acres nationally to organic product, the U.S.D.A. said.

Organic farms
 


Ardent Mills in December 2015 launched “Organic Initiative 2019,” a program designed to assist wheat growers in doubling U.S. organic wheat acreage by 2019.

Ardent Mills is on track to meet the 2019 organic goal, said Shrene White, director of risk, specialty grains. The program, which began with an organic wheat farming program in Colorado, has grown to include seven U.S. states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming) and a Canadian province (Saskatchewan). The number of the company’s organic-certified mills has grown from two to seven across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.

“With our growing organic milling network, our customers can take advantage of more local sourcing options that can lower shipping cost, and they can support multiple production locations with one trusted supplier,” Ms. White said. “A number of our pack centers are also organic certified so that we are now providing organic store brand flours in addition to our Simply Milled branded line of organic retail flour.”

Bay State Milling, Quincy, Mass., has expanded organic wheat storage capacity and entered into long-term grower agreements, said Edward Fish, senior manager corporate strategy.

“Our latest acquisition, CleanDirt Farm, a millet processor in Sterling, Colo., supports a large contingency of local organic growers who value millet as a sustainable rotation crop,” he said.

Bay State Milling should break ground in May on an expansion of its specialty milling and blending facility in Bolingbrook, Ill., said Donna Reiser, marketing communications manager.

“Bay State Milling encourages sustainable global organic trade through its membership in the Organic Trade Association,” Mr. Fish said. “We support local organic food systems such as The Bread Lab at Washington State University. A collaborative effort with the Sustainable Food Lab (a global network of organizations accelerating progress toward a more sustainable food system) is in the early stage.”

Organic bread
Brolite's Hanover rye is made with organic rye flour.

Brolite, Streamwood, Ill., has offered certified organic products since 2002. The company’s portfolio includes organic grain blends designed to meet specific customer needs as far as grains and particle size desired, said Tim MacDonald, vice-president of sales and marketing.

Neuve Grains and O.G.B. are both blends of organic grains, seeds and wheat designed for American and European-style multigrain bagels, bread, rolls and pizza crusts. The O-3 blend features amaranth, buckwheat and sesame. The Hanover rye is made with organic rye flour.

“In addition to grain blends, Brolite now has organic and made-with-organic mold inhibitors, shortening blends, dough conditioners and tortilla bases,” Mr. MacDonald said.

Lesaffre Yeast Corp. and Red Star Yeast Co. offer a growing range of certified organic yeast and baking ingredients, including Red Star organic block yeast and Saf-Pro 40 Organic, a deactivated yeast that provides flavor and relaxing activity in doughs.

AB Mauri launched an organic line of dough-strengthening and extended shelf life systems in October 2015. The original portfolio focused on organic, enzyme-based oxidant, extended shelf life and conditioning systems, said Paul Bright, innovation manager for AB Mauri North America, St. Louis.

“Since the introduction of our organic-certified dough conditioning and bread softening lineup 18 months ago, we have continued to add to our offerings,” Mr. Bright said.

AB Mauri has added two organic white distilled vinegars in both 120- and 300-grain options. The company in 2016 introduced a line of Non-GMO Project verified dry yeast products from its Veracruz, Mexico, facility.

“The organic trend is definitely there, and our customers are increasingly making these products available to consumers demanding an organic bakery option,” Mr. Bright said. “There is a strong correlation between the growth in organic and the demand by consumers for greater transparency in product labeling and their desire to know more about the foods they are eating.”

Cargill, Minneapolis, recently added soybean oil and high-oleic sunflower oil to its organic portfolio, said Julie Robey, strategic marketing leader, global edible oils solutions for Cargill. De-oiled canola lecithin may be used in organic products.

“When companies decide to switch to organic products, they need to make sure they have a secure supply pipeline of organic ingredients to deliver on their brand promise,” she said. “Cargill can help customers achieve peace of mind through assured supply, a history of quality and food safety, formulation and supply chain expertise, as well as cost management.”

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