A joint venture of Cargill, CHS, and ConAgra Foods
Employees: 2,400 (including about 200 at the Denver headquarters plus more than 100 at two mills in Colorado)
CEO Dan Dye and COO Bill Stoufer are bringing innovative new products to market via the largest flour milling network in the U.S. The company feeds 100 million people a day.
Established in May 2014, Ardent Mills took its name to reflect the commitment to the industry. "We're really passionate about grain-based foods," says Dye.
The joint venture's aim "was to better serve the customer by bringing together our facilities," he adds. The network now includes 40 mills and processing plants in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico as well as a few bakeries and other facilities that ultimately produce ingredients for 100 million people every day.
"We're about 30 percent of the production capacity of flour milling in the United States," says Stoufer. "It's California to Boston, Minnesota to Texas to Florida." The company has 50-state distribution via a who's who of customers in the restaurant and retail markets, and exports are minimal, he adds, "a rounding error."
"That is the largest but we don't look at size as an entitlement," he adds. "We want to be agile with every customer we work with. . . . We still have to earn every bit of business we get every day."
Denver was selected as the company's headquarters for several reasons. The venture has mills in Denver and Commerce City and relationships with Colorado State University and local farmers.
Gov. Hickenlooper also called at the right time, says Dye, and the Colorado entrepreneurial scene was another factor. Says Stoufer: "People were bringing to life the brand essence of 'Nourishing what's next'" Ardent Mills' tagline.
Ardent Mills' flours include wheat, rice, corn, barley, and oats flours, as well as organic flours and products made with sprouted wheat, ancient grains, and gluten-free grains. Its Ultragrain line features nutritional whole wheat flours that mimic refined white flours.
Stoufer calls the patented Ultragrain "revolutionary," noting that it's become a staple at Colorado schools. "We're finding new ways for our customers to deliver whole-grain nutrition with the same texture and flavor of refined white flour," he says.
Snowmass, a hard white wheat strain developed by the Colorado Wheat Research Foundation, is used in the line. "It's a great story of Colorado innovation," says Stoufer.
NuFiber is another new fiber-rich product that takes advantage of "what we don't put in the white flour," says Stoufer.
Ardent Mills can take its own story of milling innovation right out to its customers in the form of its Mobile Innovation Center. "It's a fully functioning kitchen, test lab, and meeting room, says Dye."
Challenges: "One is continuing to tell the story of the goodness of grain," says Dye. "There are some headwinds right now."
Opportunities: Baked goods from all over the world. "Getting grains into different products we didn't expect 10 years ago," says Stoufer. "These new tastes are coming into the U.S."
Gluten-free flour is a growing market. Asks Dye: "Who better to find a gluten-free alternative than the experts in gluten?"
Needs: "Continuing to bring the most innovative ideas into the marketplace," says Dye.
Talented people are another need, he adds. "You want to build a strong, motivated, and engaged team." One intangible perk: "You get to come to work every day to help feed the world."