A New Era

Ardent Mills literally drives innovation to its customers with the Mobile Innovation Center – a fully functional bakery, culinary kitchen and meeting space designed to deliver onsite culinary and R&D creativity.

The premier flour-milling and ingredient company offered an exclusive look into its Mobile Innovation Center before the National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel Show began. Walking up to the Ardent Mills booth, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and breathe in the smell of freshly baked bread – which was then followed by a wide-eyed reaction to the giant trailer that was parked before me.

Not knowing what to expect when I arrived at pre-show to view this innovation center – but having a preconceived notion that it would be something along the lines of a traveling van, food truck or something of the sort – I was impressed by the sheer magnitude and technology available on the inside. 

The Mobile Innovation Center is not a salesforce on wheels, but a way for the company to share its passion and develop new recipes and ways to add grains to menus and products across the country with its customers.

During the event, CEO Dan Dye talked about the new era of grain and how the center gives Ardent Mills a unique advantage. “Powered by an industry-leading portfolio of premium multi-use flours, whole grains, organic grains, sprouted grains, specialty products and custom blends,” Dye says, “we will illustrate how we are the go-to resource for restaurant chains and foodservice operators to develop insight-driven, nutritious menu solutions.”

Grain Innovation

Ardent Mills’ goal is to tell its grain-based story better because Americans still do not get the recommended intake of whole grains. To make grain consumption enticing, the company’s Ultragrain is a whole wheat flour that delivers whole grain nutrition with white flour appeal in everyday foods. “We see a great future with Ultragrain,” Dye says. “There is a huge market for growth and we want to bring bread to the marketplace in a whole new way.”

Consumers are more conscious of what they are eating now more than ever. The “Enlightened Eating” mega trend as Director of Commercial Insights David Sheluga calls it, includes the “locavore” or person who buys local, the ethical treatment of animals and workers, and “purity” or organic and GMO-free products.

During the NRA Show, Ardent Mills showcased baked goods using its Sprouted White Spring Whole Wheat Flour, Sustagrain ultra-high fiber barley and Ancient Grains. “The leader in sprouted wheat flour and organic wheat flour, two on-trend ingredients for ‘Enlightened Eaters,’ Ardent Mills is uniquely positioned to help restaurants scale to meet regional and national product launches,” the company says. 

It also offered baked goods from its IBR facility, an artisan commercial bakery located in Portland, Ore., that is equal parts baking facility and think-tank. “IBR is where cutting-edge concepts meet high-touch craftsmanship to help restaurant chains and foodservice operators introduce signature bread and baked good menu items,” the company explains. 

Mobile Innovation Center

Ardent Mills’ Mobile Innovation Center is a state-of-the-art culinary center with a multipurpose platform designed to bring onsite creativity, hands-on education and interactive R&D support to customers’ front doors. The tractor-trailer is driven around the country to customers’ locations so companies can work side-by-side Ardent Mills’ chefs, food scientists and technical bakers to use its portfolio of ingredients to turn their ideas into reality. “This is a unique advantage to Ardent Mills that we bring right to the customer,” Dye says. 

The trailer was more spacious than I expected with the amount of equipment it features, including a full portfolio of ingredients, three training stations, Baxter mini-rotating rack convection oven, a Hobart 20-quart mixer, deck oven, convection oven and more.

Ardent Mills’ Mobile Innovation Center is tailored to fit customers’ problem-solving and product development needs. 

“From education to concept ideation, the facility provides workstations and resources to develop foods that appeal to consumers’ changing tastes,” the company says. 

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