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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

Global demand for wheat food grows stronger every year, making exports vitally important to U.S. wheat farmers. As the export market development organization for the U.S. wheat industry, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) works to help wheat buyers, millers, bakers, wheat food processors and government officials understand the quality, value and reliability of all six U.S. wheat classes. USW relies on its successful working relationships with world-class educational partners that, through courses, workshops and seminars, enhance the technical and trade service assistance to help separate U.S. wheat from its competitors. One of those partners is AIB International (AIB) in Manhattan, Kan.

AIB was founded in 1919 as a technology and information center for bakers and food processors. Its mission is to empower the global food industry to elevate their food safety and grain-based production capabilities. AIB’s staff includes experts in baking production, experimental baking, cereal science, nutrition, food safety and hygiene. While most of its training occurs at its United States headquarters office, both AIB’s physical and virtual overseas offices are involved in coordinating its food safety services as well as public and private training on location.

“AIB has evolved as a company, but that educational piece of our mission has remained at the core of everything we do,” said Brian Strouts, AIB Vice President of Baking and Food Technical Services.

In 2018, USW is sponsoring participants from Japan, China and Hong Kong at AIB courses focused on variety breads and rolls, and baking science and technology. USW Technical Specialist Dr. Ting Liu recently completed the Baking Science and Technology Resident Course, an intensive, 16-week residency held twice a year that combines science, hands-on lab work and baking tradition. Liu shares her first-hand experience at the course in the story (The AIB Baking Science and Technology Course: A Pathway to Success) below.

Participants learn how key ingredients function and interact in baked products, which processes are critical to finished products, sound manufacturing practices and how to manage the production process. The course is accredited by the Kansas Board of Regents, so participants who pass it also receive 60 IACET (International Association for Continuing Education and Training) continuing education units.

“This course is the capstone of our baking training programs and holds quite a bit of weight in the industry because of its historical significance,” said Strouts. “This most recent class to graduate was class 192, and the true value of this certificate is the knowledge of the students who came before them in classes 1 through 191, and what that experience means to them individually and to their organizations.”

AIB also offers an extensive database of online resources, webinars and guides, both free and for purchase. This includes several resources focused on helping bakeries address key elements of the U.S. Food Safety Modernization Act.

USW recognizes the value of sending both its own staff and U.S. wheat customers to AIB for training. Strouts explained that the key component of AIB’s relationship with USW is the international perspective from the participants that USW sponsors.

“Our courses — especially one as long at the Baking Science and Technology Course — is an immersion of its participants, their cultures and individual experiences,” said Strouts. “That value is intangible.”

Learn more about AIB and its programming and services at www.aibonline.org.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Assistant Director of Communications

Each year, after thousands of wheat crop samples are analyzed and the results are published in the USW Crop Quality Report, USW invites its overseas customers, including buyers, millers and processors, to seminars led by USW staff, U.S. wheat farmers, state wheat commission staff and educational partner organizations. The seminars dive into grade factors, protein levels, flour extraction rates, dough stability, baking loaf volume, noodle color and texture and more for all six U.S. wheat classes, and are tailored to focus on the needs and trends in each regional market.

In 2017, USW hosted 33 seminars in 25 countries, and many reported seeing record participation. Customers share that they use the report throughout the year as a reference manual and to guide them through purchases and future planning. The seminars provide a first look at the overall crop and a deep dive into the data and how to use it.

“The crop quality booklet is very useful for us as millers for reference and information on wheat quality available for production,” said one participant from Indonesia.

“If we encounter quality issues in our products, we use the wheat quality data to help us make necessary adjustments,” said participants from the Philippines.

Customers will often use the seminars and report as educational training for new employees.

The reports and seminars have been a traditional part of USW’s strategy since 1959, growing to become its single largest marketing activity.

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Communications Specialist

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to travel abroad with some U.S. wheat farmers to learn more about the world wheat market and see how those markets use U.S. wheat. We visited many end-product manufacturers, and as we reviewed their various products, most of our conversations circled back to consumer demand. In the United States, the consumer’s relationship with food is becoming increasingly sophisticated — following new trends and seeking out convenience and information on where it came from. The fuel for this change comes from increasing disposable income, television networks dedicated to food and the growing number of online platforms like food blogs, Pinterest, etc. Although products and taste preferences vary from market to market, the demand for food that is high quality, creative and has a story, is universal.

Here in the United States, I recently had the chance to participate in an event that represents a potentially successful way for the global milling, food ingredient and wheat food industries to tell their stories to consumers. It was the National Festival of Breads, a biennial event held in Manhattan, KS, hosted by the Kansas Wheat Commission and sponsored by King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast to showcase bread, U.S. wheat and the art of baking. At the center of the festival on June 17 were eight people selected as finalists in a baking contest, the only U.S. amateur bread-baking competition in the United States. They prepared their original bread recipes live for festival visitors and were judged on creativity, healthfulness and taste to determine a grand prize winner. Judges selected the “Seeded Corn and Onion Bubble Loaf,” made by Ronna Farley of Rockville, MD, as the 2017 National Festival of Breads Champion. The champion recipe and all eight finalists’ recipes are available at https://nationalfestivalofbreads.com.

The festival also featured diverse educational baking demonstrations focused on the versatility of bread, baking tips, convenience and health. The more than 3,000 festival visitors joined in hands-on children’s activities, bread tasting and a trade show featuring the baking industry and a well-rounded look at the  U.S. wheat supply chain, including wheat farmers, milling companies, research and extension, and those in product development.

Prior to the festival, the eight finalists also went on a farm-to-fork tour of central Kansas, which included a flour mill, a wheat farm and the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. On the Kejr family wheat farm, the finalists rode along in the combine to actually participate in the wheat harvest, which one finalist said helped complete the story of the bread into which she put so much of her own care and hard work.

What was advertised as a fun, family-friendly festival for baking really serves as an opportunity to learn about what is important to the consumer and, in return, share information on the role of wheat in their diet — and why bread is so important in so many cultures. My experiences on my trip overseas and at the National Festival of Breads had many parallels, most importantly that listening to the consumer and creating product advantages and stories around their desires is an effective model for success.

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Montana farmer Denise Conover knows her wheat. She watches the markets, takes care of her land and stays up-to-date on current research to select the hard red winter (HRW) wheat varieties that will perform best on her farm. Once her wheat leaves the farm, she understands the valuable role everyone in the grain chain plays from the country elevator to the traders. But like many U.S. wheat farmers, once Conover’s wheat is loaded on a vessel and leaves the port, she knows much less about what happens to it next.

Every year, USW invites farmers (selected by state wheat commissions) to participate in teams that travel overseas to follow their wheat and offer the opportunity to learn from customers about the wheat quality characteristics needed in those markets. Earlier this month, Conover, a director on the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee from Broadview, MT, traveled to Thailand and the Philippines on the 2017 South Asia Board Team with Clint Vanneman, a wheat farmer from Ideal, SD, and a current USW director representing the South Dakota Wheat Commission, and Dustin Johnsrud, a wheat farmer from Epping, ND, serving his first four-year term on the North Dakota Wheat Commission. USW Communications Specialist Amanda Spoo led the team.

“Going on this trip was an opportunity for me to gain a better understanding of what our customers expect us to produce for them,” said Vanneman. “Exports are such an important part of the demand for U.S. wheat so it is important that we understand where we need to take our product and the value that USW has in marketing our grain.”

Conover added, “Now I see that so much of what we learned from overseas customers reflects back on the farm. It is amazing that the decisions we make on the farm carry forward to the end-users in other countries.”

The team visited customers and end users in Thailand and the Philippines, allowing them to observe the differences in wheat food production facilities and milling between the two countries, while also discussing U.S. wheat use in everyday products.

One of the highlights in Thailand was visiting the baking school run by United Flour Mill (UFM) Co., Ltd. USW has developed a very collaborative and productive relationship with the school since 1982, specifically to host preeminent bakery training courses led by USW Baking Consultant Roy Chung. The team also visited the UFM flour mill to see how integrated education has enhanced the return from its milling business.

“This is a resource for a huge area and multiple markets. The school brings in industry allies, bakers and millers to learn how to better utilize wheat. The fact that they are learning those skills using U.S. wheat makes this an essential part of our role in the market,” said Vanneman.

Another stop at a cookie and cracker company showed the team how generational changes and eating habits are shifting market preference and increasing the development of new wheat products in Thailand — and how USW activities help customers navigate new challenges and opportunities.

“Back in the United States we hear about the relationships USW has in overseas markets, but here we saw it on every level here. As farmers we can see the respect customers have for the trade service and technical support USW offers with USDA program funding,” said Conover. “We can go back and tell other U.S. wheat producers what we saw and heard, and that is going to carry more value.”

In the Republic of the Philippines, the team members were guests of honor at the 9th International Exhibition on Bakery, Confectionery and Foodservice Equipment and Supplies, known as “Bakery Fair 2017,” hosted by the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc. Vanneman was asked to give remarks on behalf of the team and all U.S. wheat farmers at a luncheon during the event. It was one of many opportunities for the team to talk about the HRW, hard red spring (HRS) and durum they grow and answer questions about their farms from customers. When Johnsrud spoke about the size and diversity of the farm he owns and manages with his dad and just one hired hand, many of the customers were shocked. All three farmers shared how weather, disease, transportation and other challenges can affect their farm from year to year and in turn affect the crops available for export — but they also highlighted how their commissions are working together to direct and fund public wheat breeding and research aimed at solving those challenges and improving both wheat quality and yield.

“We want them to know that we are listening. If we take anything home with us, I think it needs to be that we have to strive to show our breeders and other farmers that we need to keep our quality up as best we can,” said Conover. “If there is a variety out there that is not working, we need to get it out of the system.”

“Meeting with our customers shined a light on how strong the collaboration with USW is, and how essential it is to create greater preference for U.S. wheat,” said Vanneman. “Quality wheat and customer service lead to customer loyalty. The end-product user is loyal to our customers, which leads to stronger loyalty to U.S. wheat as a competitive supplier,” said Vanneman. The team will report to the USW board of directors later this year. To see pictures from this and other Board Team trips, please visit the USW Facebook page.

By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Communications Specialist

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By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Communications Specialist

Every year USW sends teams of U.S. farmers overseas to visit markets they supply with wheat. These regional visits highlight the day-to-day work and marketing strategies of USW’s overseas offices and connect the farmers to their customers and industry stakeholders.

“The feedback we hear consistently from our customers is how much they appreciate getting to know the farmer firsthand,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Vince Peterson. “These team visits give farmers the opportunity to follow their wheat overseas, and as businessmen and women, those personal connections are invaluable.”

USW Communications Specialist Amanda Spoo will lead USW’s 2017 South Asia Board Team to Thailand and the Philippines in February. The team includes Dustin Johnsrud, a wheat farmer from Epping, ND, serving his first four-year term on the North Dakota Wheat Commission; Denise Conover, a wheat farmer from Broadview, MT, and a director on the Montana Wheat and Barley Committee; and Clint Vanneman, a wheat farmer from Ideal, SD, and a current USW director representing the South Dakota Wheat Commission.

The team will first meet at the USW West Coast Office in Portland, OR, for briefings by USW and the Wheat Marketing Center, as well as visits to the Federal Grain Inspection Service and the local United Grain export terminal. During three days in Thailand, the team will visit the United Flour Mills (UFM) Baking and Cooking School as well as tour a flour mill, a bakery and an international food manufacturing plant. The second leg of the trip features two days in the Philippines, which includes tours of a mill and a food manufacturer. The team will also have the opportunity to attend the Filipino-Chinese Bakery Association Inc. (FCBAI) Bakery Fair.

The Thai milling wheat market has grown at a robust 5 percent for the past two years. USDA estimates that milling wheat demand reached 1 MMT for the first time in the 2012/13 marketing year and has increased to 1.24 MMT in 2016/17. Customers there imported about 50 percent of their milling wheat from the United States in 2015/16. In an evolving Thai market, consumer preferences are changing and there is increased demand for baked goods, biscuits and noodles. Over the past four decades, USW has worked closely with the UFM Baking and Cooking School in Bangkok to train and provide technical assistance to South Asian bakers and demonstrate the quality and value of U.S. wheat classes.

The Philippines was the third largest buyer of U.S. wheat in the 2015/16 marketing year with total imports reaching almost 2.2 MMT and was the largest buyer of both soft white (SW) and hard red spring (HRS). In this dynamic market, USW continues to help the milling and baking industry navigate changes by providing technical assistance and marketing training, and investing in activities to increase wheat flour consumption. USW established an office in Manila in 1961, allowing USW to maintain close, long-term relationships with industry leaders in the Philippines.

“Visiting these markets will give the farmers a unique look at the value of using high quality U.S. wheat and why these markets prefer it for their end-products,” said Peterson.

The team will post regular travel updates and photographs, and will report to the USW board. Follow their progress on the USW Facebook page at www.facebook/uswheat and on Twitter at @uswheatassoc.