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Name: Andrés Saturno

Title: Technical Specialist

Office: USW South American Regional Office, Santiago

Providing Service to: Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru


Though raised in Carialinda, Venezuela, located in the mountains of Naguanagua, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Technical Specialist Andrés Saturno and his two brothers grew up with Italian and Spanish influences from his parents and grandmother. Bread was a big part of their table, and Saturno learned how to make many different kinds.

“Our daily consumption of wheat breads included close to twenty bollitos, which are French-style rolls, and two pan campesinos, a Spanish-style artisan bread,” Saturno said. “I also have made my favorite dish, gnocchi, from my grandmother’s recipe.”

Throughout his younger years, Saturno and his father, Andrea, a professional miller, worked on presentations related to wheat flour for his school science fairs. Saturno said their best presentation compared the properties of wheat gluten with other cereals. For this, they produced and displayed rice flour bread “that looked like a stone” and “beautiful wheat flour bread.”

Like Father, Like Son

In Saturno’s childhood, the group of mills where his father worked as the general manager and as the first Director of the Latin American School of Milling, known as ESLAMO, also made quite an impression.

“I was always fascinated to see the trains loaded with wheat entering the mill where my father worked,” Saturno said, “and with the analysis equipment in the ESLAMO milling school that USW had originally donated.”

After high school, Saturno was undecided if he wanted to be a mechanical engineer or a chef, but his father’s career influenced him to major in milling engineering. Saturno decided to attend Universidad Panamericana Del Puerto, where his father had started the milling engineering major, and he took great interest in the specific food processes and engineering behind milling.

Andrés (far right) with his father, Andrea (middle right), and his brothers in 2004.

“My dad has always been an example for me as a person and as a professional,” Saturno said. “Everyone said good things about him, and that influenced me even at school.”

Building a Career

During his time at the university, he honed his skills at ESLAMO and gained more experience with wheat, flour, baking, and pasta analysis. Saturno said that his time at the university and ESLAMO gave him the theoretical and practical tools to understand and solve problems in the milling process.

Andrés and his classmates at the ESLAMO milling school.

After graduation, Saturno’s first job was at a durum mill owned by a pasta factory. Saturno learned about milling semolina, pasta production, and how to operate a mill built in the 1950s. Saturno then worked at a food consulting company installing milling equipment and accessories and various other agro-industry equipment in animal handling facilities and feed plants. While working for the food consulting company, he had the opportunity to return to his university to teach milling.

“It was the most beautiful job I had,” Saturno said. “I still have communication with my students. Nothing is more rewarding than teaching.”

Building on his work at an older, established mill, Saturno moved to Honduras to work as the head of milling production in a brand-new flour mill. While there, Saturno learned how to grind U.S. soft red winter (SRW) wheat and produce flour for products like tortillas by blending different wheat classes.

Here, Saturno is providing in-plant technical service for a customer in Brazil.

The Right Fit

During Saturno’s time in Honduras, USW worked with its state wheat commission member organizations in the Pacific Northwest to develop and fund a new technical specialist position based in its South American regional office in Santiago, Chile. Changes in regional markets significantly influenced the need to add technical expertise in flour milling and blending. Someone with that experience and good communication skills would be needed.

During the search in early 2018, Casey Chumrau, who at the time was serving as USW Marketing Manager in the South American region, and is now executive director for the Idaho Wheat Commission, reached out to Andrea Saturno, who had been working with USW as a milling consultant since 2013, to ask about potential candidates.

“Turns out, his son, Andrés, was looking for a new job,” Chumrau said. “Since we had been working with Andrea, I knew we would have to be extra diligent in vetting his son to avoid any bias,” Chumrau said. “From the first contact, however, Andrés was extremely professional and showed a lot of potential. We knew he had the passion and personality to do the job,” Chumrau added. “Once Mark Fowler (USW Vice President of Global Technical Services) confirmed Andrés had the technical knowledge, we offered him the job.”

“I loved the idea of working with many different mills and processes where wheat is involved,” Saturno said. “I received the call for the job with USW, and at that moment, I said, ‘I can’t lose this chance.’”

With USW/Santiago, Saturno’s role is to work closely with customers and technical staff in South America to provide training, technical advice, and ongoing support to millers. To accomplish this, Saturno creates seminars and technical classes for the South American region to build relationships while providing valuable information and skills to USW customers.

“Andrés has extensive soft skills and excellent relationships with regional customers and his team,” Claudia Gomez, USW Senior Marketing Specialist in the USW Santiago Office, said. “He also provides important technical knowledge in milling and very good speaking skills to [present] various technical information to our clients.”

USW Brazilian Technical Trade Delegation to the United States on a visit to ADM Milling.

“Andrés’ expertise has allowed our customers to get the best out of our wheat during the cleaning, conditioning, and milling processes,” Miguel Galdós, USW Regional Director, South America, said. “Through post-sale activities, Andrés has collaborated with different mills in the region, creating confidence and loyalty with the technical staff of our customers.”

Technical Service

Saturno’s work helps USW Santiago provide services and training on all six U.S. wheat classes to customers in Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. Financial support for his activities comes from state wheat commissions in Washington, Idaho, and Oregon and USDA/Foreign Agricultural Service export market development programs.

Some examples of his work include utilizing the Quality Samples Program (QSP) to introduce hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) wheat to a Chilean mill and soft white (SW) wheat to a mill in Colombia, leading a USW-sponsored team of Brazilian flour managers on a visit to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service Soft Wheat Laboratory in Wooster, Ohio, and on tours of wheat research facilities at Kansas State University and Texas A&M University.

Andrés co-led a QSP and milling seminar at Molino La Estampa in Chile with his father, Andrea Saturno, and USW colleague Casey Chumrau (now Idaho Wheat Commission Executive Director). The La Estampa QSP activity encouraged the mill to import 4,500 metric tons (MT) of HRW and 1,000 MT of SRW. 

“In previous years, USW was an institution that, although it had an office [in Santiago], there was no local contact to turn to in case of technical doubts,” said Maria Ines Velarde, Lab Manager, Molino La Estampa, Santiago, Chile. “The change in strategy that we have seen the last years, which included the arrival of Andrés Saturno, has meant that USW and La Estampa got closer, and that created ties and trust that allow us to have key and reliable information to make decisions at the right time.”

With Saturno as a technical specialist, USW can now give customers in the South American region more complete customer service.

Traveling with USW Santiago colleagues. (L to R) Andrés Saturno, Osvaldo Seco, Casey Chumrau and Miguel Galdos.

“This helped us widen our service area spectrum for our clients,” Saturno said. “Now we give constant technical attention to the personnel of laboratories, bakeries, milling, marketing, post-sale technicians, buyers, and owners of the mills.”

Saturno’s passion for the industry, experience in technical training, and ability to communicate with his customers has earned the respect not only of his customers but also of his colleagues.

“Andrés has contributed strong technical knowledge in the milling process, which has been a great value for all our regional customers, giving them the necessary technical support to obtain the best return from our wheat,” Galdós said.

“In addition to being a professional milling expert, Andrés is one of the best people in the world,” Chumrau said. “He truly wants each mill to be successful and doesn’t need any of the credit. He is a team player, a dedicated employee, and a great colleague. Andrés is and undoubtedly will further the mission of USW representing U.S. wheat farmers and their products.”

Andrés and his wife, Berenice, at an ALIM conference in Mexico.

Andrés and his son, Alessio Massimiliano Saturno Ramos, born on February 19, 2020.


By Dylan Davidson, USW Communications Intern

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”

Header Photo Caption: Andrés (far right) at a USW milling seminar in Fortaleza, Brazil with fellow USW staff, Peter Lloyd (second from left) and Miguel Galdos (second to right).


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

Ting Liu – Opening Doors in a Naturally Winning Way
Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking
Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry
 Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Wei-lin Chou – Finding Harmony in the Wheat Industry

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Despite the different roles or distances between us, all the people around the world in the story of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) share an unspoken connection, not only through U.S. wheat, but also through our shared values of growth, hard work and family.

Today, those connections may have been physically broken by concern for our health during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the effort to keep those bonds strong continues thanks to the miracle of the Internet.

USW has adapted before to circumstances that kept our representatives apart from overseas customers. Our regional office in Mexico City used online tools to successfully conduct virtual Crop Quality Seminars with Venezuelan customers since 2015.

With forethought that looks uncanny today, USW Director of Information Services Terry Herman in 2019 installed the latest collaboration software from Microsoft that has become a lifeline to customers who initially were very concerned that the pandemic would disrupt the flow of wheat from the United States. USW quickly put the new tool to work to help reassure customers that the U.S. wheat store would stay open.

USW Singapore Biscuit/Bakery and Noodle Technologist Ivan Goh presented a webinar on “SRC as a Quality Control Tool” to a Philippine food company May 21, 2020, one of many such online presentations USW is now conducting to stay in touch with its customers

“It was very important to have the ability to connect personally, even if it was through virtual meetings,” said USW Vice President of Overseas Operations Mike Spier. “With the restrictions and a new wheat crop coming there were lots of questions about supply to answer. I don’t think you can ever replace the value of face-to-face meetings but being able to quickly turn to online tools that allow us to see and hear each other sure helps to reinforce the relationships.”

Using its new platform, for example, USW Manila has conducted an online meeting with more than 50 Philippine flour millers to discuss current supply and demand factors. The tool helped USW reach out to flour millers across Sub-Saharan Africa. USW Santiago is holding almost daily meetings on the platform with customers in several South American countries

In April, USW Singapore worked with a local partner to conduct a two-hour webinar on cookie and cracker production featuring USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung for 194 baking industry professionals from key U.S. wheat markets including the Philippines and Indonesia. A second webinar to South Asian customers in May focused on cake production. USW Santiago and USW Cape Town also partnered with Kansas Wheat to hold virtual trade teams that featured harvest progress, early crop quality and price expectations, and online video discussions with farmers live from their fields.

These are only a few examples of how USW, with support from its state wheat commission members, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, farmers and other industry organizations, is working to secure the trusted partnerships they have built with overseas customers – even in the midst of such an unexpected disruption.

 

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Name: Adrian “Ady” Redondo

Title: Technical Specialist

Office: USW South Asian Regional Office, Manila

Providing Service to: Republic of the Philippines and Korea


Growing up on his grandparents’ small farm in the Philippines province of Batangas, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Technical Specialist Adrian “Ady” Redondo learned that hard work is a great motivator.

“My father was away working in Saudi Arabia, and my mother worked as a midwife, so my three sisters and I spent our childhood helping our grandparents raise chickens and grow rice and corn. I learned that life is hard, and you don’t get to eat if you don’t sweat,” Redondo said. “But my grandparents also encouraged me to do well in school and be successful for them because they had to work on the farm with their parents to make ends meet instead of getting an education.”

The wisdom of grandparents helped set Ady Redondo on a path toward education and a career in food technology. In the top photo, his Grandmother Barbara (right) joined Redondo (far left), his mother Paz, younger sisters Anna Rose and Angelica, and a friend at a Flores de Mayo prayer service at church. In the bottom photo, his Grandfather Miguel holds Redondo surrounded by neighbors and friends. Redondo said his grandfather fought to get him in first grade even though he was too young: “He insisted I was just as smart as everyone in the class…and they accepted me.”

At his elementary school, lessons about a Batangueño hero added inspiration to Redondo’s interest in science.

María Y. Orosa was from the same hometown as Redondo’s mother and was considered the Philippines’ first female scientist. She invented the palayok oven to help families bake without access to electricity and developed recipes for local produce, including a banana ketchup formulation that became a favorite Filipino condiment and cooking ingredient. Orosa also used her knowledge of food technology to help save prisoners in World War II by inventing soyalac, a protein-rich powder from local ingredients, that she smuggled into the prison camps. Then, tragically, Orosa was killed in an Allied bombing raid.

Statue honoring María Orosa, Historical Park and Laurel Park, Batangas Provincial Capitol Complex. Photo copyright By Ramon F. Velasquez.

At home, Redondo had started cooking rice and eggs by the age of seven, and his interest in food and the sciences grew. He was valedictorian of his elementary school class and Salutatorian of his high school class. Once again, his grandparents were the catalyst for his next chapter.

The friendly competition helped fuel Redondo’s very successful high school education and prepared him for an excellent university. On the right, Redondo and his mother, Paz, with classmate May and her mother, Apolinaria, at a high school awards ceremony. On the left, Redondo at his 1997 high school graduation (as Salutatorian) with classmates (L-R) Cecilia, his cousin Norma and Cecil. “I hung out with them at lunch because they always had nice snacks and desserts, and the conversations were fun,” Redondo said.

“My grandparents always talked with respect about someone who graduated in agriculture from the University of the Philippines in the city of Los Baños, an area also known for its hot springs resorts,” Redondo said. “That is where they wanted us to go. When I discovered that the university offered a degree in Food Science and Technology, I knew I had to pass the tough exams and get into the program.”

Part of Redondo’s university studies included collaborative work with Nestlé Philippines, Inc. The company was looking for ways to develop coffee and coffee mixes that aligned the most sensory appeal for Filipino consumers with its international standards. As a student and during an internship at Nestlé, Redondo helped develop “3-in-1” flavored coffee mixes that were launched commercially to Philippine consumers under the Nescafé brand.

Redondo noted that the University of the Philippines is the top university in the country and has generated countless breakthroughs in research and established trailblazing leadership in agriculture, veterinary medicine, and forestry education.

Future food technologists at their 2001 graduation from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños. College buddies (L-R) CJ, Redondo, Ed, and Joel were all student members of the Philippine Association of Food Technologies.

After graduation (which offered a great sense of pride for his grandparents), Redondo took the advice of his Nestlé internship supervisor to gain a wide range of experience inside the Philippines’ thriving food production industry before venturing outside as a sales representative. So, he said the start of his career included “most of the work that a food technologist could see,” including research and development, quality control and assurance, technical service, production management, and technical sales.

“Almost all of that work related to the baking industry,” Redondo said. “I did technical servicing for Sonlie International, a company that distributed LeSaffre yeast in the Philippines, and learned proper commercial baking there under the tutelage of the company’s Head Baking Technician Rolly Dorado, who had served as a baking consultant for U.S. Wheat Associates in the 1980s.”

Redondo also worked as a production supervisor for the food service department of “a local burger chain” and in research and development for a company supplying premixes to Dunkin Donuts franchises in the Philippines.

Toward the Next Generation

His next career move into technical sales for commercial ingredient companies put him on a direct path to his current position in USW’s next generation of technical experts.

“I love to meet people, interact with them, and share what I know while learning from them at the same time,” Redondo said. “I had that opportunity as a technical sales executive at Bakels, a Swiss company that manufactures, sells, and supports high-quality bakery ingredients around the world.”

Redondo joined Bakels Philippines in 2005, where he found great value in the work of a colleague, Gerardo Mendoza, who is now a veteran Baking Technologist with USW/Manila.

Redondo worked with USW Baking Technologist Gerry Mendoza (left) when they both worked in technical sales at a global bakery ingredient company, Bakels.

“I worked with Gerry on provincial accounts, and eventually, I moved to key accounts where I had a lot of success,” Redondo said. “Gerry moved on, and I moved on to a multinational food ingredient company called Ingredion, specializing in modified starches and sweeteners.”

Redondo said his experience at Nestlé opened the door to the technical sales position at Ingredion. Gleaning from Mendoza’s passion for the work and people and his experience at Bakels, Redondo was able to build additional revenue for Ingredion’s Philippines and greater Southeast Asia bakery segment. He was recognized with Southeast Asia Top Sales Awards and “Best Campaigns” for three consecutive years.

“I think this success also came from trying to create additional value for whatever product Ingredion was selling,” Redondo said.

Any Resource Available

Toward the end of the ten years Redondo spent at Ingredion, USW Regional Vice President Joe Sowers was making plans to maintain a high level of technical support to the growing wheat foods industry in the Philippines. USW/Manila’s reputation for employing any resource available to help its customers succeed has helped make the Philippines the top global market for U.S. hard red spring (HRS) and soft white (SW) wheat. A fortunate change in USW’s funding sources helped solidify Sowers’ plan.

“As a result of the trade dispute between the United States and China, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service made additional export market development funding available under the Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program,” Sowers said. “This allowed us to hire a new Technical Specialist in Manila who could expand our after-sales service while training for a long time with our regional technicians. Fortunately, Gerry Mendoza had someone in mind for the job.”

“I liked working in the commercial food industry, but no matter how well you did, you would only be as good as last month’s or last year’s sales,” Redondo said. “Then, I was able to talk with Gerry and Bakery Consultant Roy Chung during an interview, who told me that success in technical support at U.S. Wheat Associates would be about helping local companies grow while helping farmers in the United States build demand for their wheat. I was all in after that talk.”

“We knew Ady had a solid background in the bakery ingredients industry that gave him the capability and credibility to contribute at a high level to our mission in the Philippines from his first day,” Sowers said. “He has also shown a strong work ethic combined with a pleasant demeanor since he joined our team in June 2019.”

“Right away, I understood that my focus would be on building relationships and serving bakery manufacturers and associations, providing technical support to flour mills, and promoting innovations in baking and quality analysis in the Philippines,” Redondo said.

Character Doesn’t Change

Late on a Friday afternoon, not long after he joined USW, Redondo had the chance to apply that focus to a flour mill that had a question about performance issues with a new U.S. wheat crop shipment. Sowers said Redondo responded immediately and asked to visit the mill Saturday morning to understand the problem better. Coordinating with other USW colleagues and a state-side university expert, Redondo was able to help the customer solve their immediate concerns and change purchase specifications to avoid similar issues in the future.

“Roy Chung likes to say the value of people is in their character; skills can be learned, character doesn’t change,” Sowers said. “Redondo’s willingness to go the extra mile, providing attention outside of office hours, was a solid indication that he would be very successful with our organization.”

That is becoming a hallmark of Redondo’s work. A Philippines baking industry executive recently noted that he is easy to work with and always responsive to the company’s inquiries.

“I am thankful that during this COVID-19 pandemic, Redondo was able to respond to our request for a webinar about Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) as a measure of flour functionality,” the executive said. “He effectively organized the webinar and gave us new knowledge, proving there is no right time and venue to learn. He is surely adding value to U.S. wheat.”

In addition to “learning the ropes” with Mendoza and Chung, Redondo said he had been actively participating in trade visits, technical support inquiries, and teaching bakery science until the pandemic put restrictions on face-to-face customer interaction.

In October 2019, Redondo (back row, fourth from right) helped Mendoza (seated first on the left), USW Seoul Country Director CY Kang (front row seated, third from left), and USW Seoul Food/Bakery Technologist Shin Hak (David) Oh (front row sitting on the far right) organize and conduct two Baking Workshops on Korean Breads and Cakes to help Philippine bakers diversify product offerings as well as production techniques.

Another opportunity Redondo looks forward to is a Cereal Science Seminar he and Mendoza have created for technical staff at local flour mills.

“This will hopefully give them a better understanding of the quality testing they conduct with wheat and flour,” Redondo said. “And, of course, to help further affirm the superior qualities of U.S. wheat.”

While continuing to help customers and train with his USW colleagues, Redondo looks forward to the future.

“I like the working culture at U.S. Wheat Associates,” he said. “Everyone is so passionate about their jobs. They genuinely work as if they are fulfilling a duty of care for their industry, which is infectious. This really is an organization you can grow in – and it also grows on you.”


By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

 

Ting Liu – Opening Doors in a Naturally Winning Way
Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking
Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry
 Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
Wei-lin Chou – Finding Harmony in the Wheat Industry

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By Mark Fowler, USW Vice President of Global Technical Services

While global wheat importers have many wheat types and origins to consider, U.S. wheat farmers offer the most diversity in the six distinct classes of wheat they produce. The United States is the only exporting country with grain standards that allow buyers to specify for both wheat class and protein content in their contracts.

However, to achieve the best value for the wheat purchased, the buyer must be well informed to understand the subtle yet critical differences in wheat contract specifications when comparing the quality and value of U.S. wheat to wheat from other origins.

Let us use protein content, perhaps the most basic quality characteristic in wheat, as an example.

How wheat quality characteristics are reported varies from country to country depending on “standards” set by regulations in each country. For protein content, the reporting standard is to compare protein based on moisture content, or the calculated moisture content equivalent.

However, within the major exporting countries there are three different reporting standards for protein content. U.S. wheat grade standards require the percent protein to be reported at a 12% moisture basis. Canadian standards report protein content at 13.5% moisture basis. All other exporting countries, such as Russia, report protein content at 0.0% moisture basis, also referred to as dry basis or d.b.

What that means for the buyer is the only way to get an accurate comparison of protein content in wheat supplies from different exporting countries is to compare them on a common moisture basis. Fortunately, that can be done with a relatively simple calculation – or by contacting your local U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representative. Let us look first at how protein content is reported and calculated.

Example 1

A sample of wheat is evaluated, and the protein content is measured at 11.8% with the moisture content measured at 11.0%. If the reporting standard is 12% moisture basis (m.b.), the reported protein content must be calculated using the formula commonly referred to as the Dry Matter (DM) ratio, expressed here:

The full equation looks like this:

Using the variables in our example, we calculated that the wheat has 11.67% protein on a 12% m.b.

An easy way to determine if the math is done properly is comparing the direction of the final value. If the actual moisture content is lower than the reported moisture basis, the reported protein content will be lower than the actual measured protein content.

Next, let us use the same numbers to calculate the protein at a dry basis or 0% moisture.

Example 2

In this calculation, the actual moisture content (11.0%) is higher than the reported moisture basis (0.0%), so the reported protein content will be higher than the actual measured protein content.

The importance of this example is to understand that the actual protein content of the wheat does not change based on moisture, it is simply math and how the protein content is reported.

Reporting protein content and other wheat and flour attributes such as water absorption at a standard moisture basis is critical to compare expected flour performance of wheat from different origins.

Here is one last example to illustrate this difference. How does Russian grade #3 wheat at 12.5% protein reported at a dry basis, compare to U.S. hard red winter (HRW) wheat reported at 12% moisture basis?

To answer this question, we do the math.

Example 3

In this calculation, the reported moisture basis of Russian origin wheat is 0.0%, lower than the reported moisture basis of U.S. wheat at 12.0%. As a result, the standard reported protein content of Russian wheat is higher than the standard reported protein content of U.S. wheat, even though the actual protein content is the same for both at 11%.

This difference has been challenging buyers of wheat for years. That is just one reason why USW, the wheat farmers we represent, and the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service continue to make trade servicing and technical support a priority in its activities with overseas wheat buyers, millers and wheat food processors. Contact your regional USW office representative for more information or visit our website and leave a question in our “Ask The Expert” section.

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Name: Ting Liu, Ph.D

Title: Technical Specialist

Office: USW China, Hong Kong Region, Beijing Office

Providing Service to: People’s Republic of China


Where and who we come from makes so much difference in each life. For Dr. Ting Liu, the skills she observed in her family as an only child in southeastern China’s Zhejiang province led directly to a doctorate in food science and her position as Technical Specialist with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

“I grew up with parents who produced and sold all kinds of furniture in our town, so they showed me how to stay in harmony with customers,” Dr. Liu said. “My love of food started as I watched my grandmother form dough for the many different Chinese wheat foods she made and sometimes helped me make.”

Ting as a child with her grandmother.

Filled with the traditions of her grandmother’s baking and a focus on schoolwork, Dr. Liu earned a spot in the Food Science and Engineering program at Zhejiang Gongshang University. Learning professional skills and participating in efforts to develop new products, including nutritious drinks and snacks, as she earned her bachelor’s degree, helped convince her that she should focus on food research and development.

“In order to build more food knowledge, improve my competitiveness and broaden my horizons, I decided to do graduate study in food science abroad,” Dr. Liu said.

U.S. Connections

She chose the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, because it served a large agricultural state home to the headquarters of many large-sized food companies, such as Cargill and General Mills. Ultimately, her connections there helped lay the foundation of her work today representing U.S. wheat farmers in China.

“I decided to do my post-graduate research on whole wheat products because of my childhood memories and my understanding of the health benefits of whole grains,” Dr. Liu recalled. “That is how I met a very important advisor in my life, whose name is Dr. Len Marquart. Under his guidance during my doctoral study, I improved my English writing and communication skills, my ability to think independently, solve problems, and how to develop professional networks of influential people. He also made it possible for me to do my research as a visiting scholar at the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Oregon, from June 2014 to January 2016.”

Ting (Third from the right, first row) with Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) Staff and USW China End Product Collaborative Team in 2015 at WMC.

Dr. Liu’s work at WMC was productive and transformative. Working with Dr. Marquart and former WMC Technical Director Dr. Gary Hou, she completed three research projects on improving the quality of whole wheat tortillas using different particle sizes of flour milled from U.S. hard red winter (HRW), hard red spring (HRS), and hard white wheat, sprouted whole wheat flour and a chemical leavening system. Through this research, Dr. Liu published six peer-reviewed technical papers and one book chapter in English on whole wheat products. She presented research results at the annual meetings of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) International and the Institute of Food Technologists. She was also actively involved in the AACC International Milling & Baking Division.

Dr. Liu said working at WMC exposed her to flour milling and wheat and flour quality analysis. She also helped prepare short courses and workshops on wheat products, prepared a range of wheat food products, and completed a research project on pan bread with added whey permeate. Much of that work was done under WMC’s educational partnership with USW.

Understanding the Mission

“One of my favorite things about working at WMC was helping host teams of wheat growers and students from all over the United States, as well as U.S. wheat customers from all over the world,” Dr. Liu said. “In 2015, I had the chance to meet the people working with USW in China when they brought three teams to WMC for different programs. This helped me better understand the USW mission and ignited my interest in joining the USW team in China.”

Ting graduated and obtained a Ph.D. in Food Science from the University of Minnesota in 2016.

Fortunately, as Dr. Liu completed her doctorate program in August 2016, a technical position was available in the USW Beijing office.

“Dr. Marquart believed I would be well-suited to a job serving as a liaison between U.S. farmers, their wheat, and the milling and wheat food industries in China,” Dr. Liu recalled. “During my job interview, USW Regional Vice President Jeff Coey told me the greatest asset of USW lies in its people who are truly good at what they do, are eager to share their knowledge with their teammates and customers, and tend to devote many years to the organization. I took the job as Technical Specialist without hesitation.”

“Ting already had a keen understanding of our mission from her work at the Wheat Marketing Center, and it was apparent right away that she would bring a tremendous value to our team and to our customers in China,” Coey said.

The need for additional wheat classes in China was increasing as Dr. Liu settled into her new position with USW in September 2016. According to IBIS World Industry Report, China’s bread and bakery product manufacturing industry grew rapidly at an annualized rate of 6.6 percent between 2013 and 2018. And until the government implemented retaliatory tariffs in March 2018, China was importing an annual average of 1.6 million metric tons of U.S. HRS, soft white, and HRW.

With that growth comes an opportunity for USW and Dr. Liu. USW continues to have a strong working relationship with the leaders and faculty at the Sino-American Baking School in Guangzhou and baking consultants to help China’s flour millers and wheat food processors better understand how to best utilize the characteristics of U.S. wheat classes to help grow their businesses. Under the guidance of Coey, USW Country Director Shirley Lu, Dr. Liu has taken on more and more of those responsibilities.

Ting conducted a Frozen Dough short course at Sino-American Baking School in 2019.

“Our team has great confidence in providing technical service that customers need to meet new consumer demand using U.S. wheat,” Lu said. “Ting has the expertise, language ability, nice personality, and high sense of responsibility that fit perfectly in the organization and our unique markets.”

It is clear that customers in China consider Dr. Liu a valued addition to USW’s service. They appreciate her undeniable professional credentials and achievements, but above all, they enjoy her sincere, friendly personality.

“Dr. Liu is very keen to use her professional expertise to solve practical problems in our technology research and development,” said one general manager of a flour mill in Guangdong province. “We want to express our heartfelt thanks to her and to U.S. Wheat Associates.”

Dr. Liu made a strong impression on the research and development manager at a very influential wheat buying and flour milling organization in China. She noted that Dr. Liu “takes the initiative to determine the technical needs of our company and provides cutting-edge information to solve problems and help the company. She always teaches complex knowledge with concise language and a sweet voice.”

Continuing Education

In her own generous way, Dr. Liu said USW has made it possible for her to get the best training and exposure to real-world milling and baking challenges as part of her work.

In 2018, USW sent Dr. Liu to a Baking Science and Technology course at AIB International in Manhattan, Kan., an intensive, 16-week program combining science, hands-on lab work, and baking tradition. She represented herself and USW with distinction, earning top student honors and an “Excellence in Laboratory Leadership” award for her participation in the course.

Ting completed the Baking Science and Technology (BST) Course at AIB International in Manhattan, Kansas, in 2018.

“I was also able to assist in the USW Baking Science and Technology, Cookie & Cracker, Frozen Dough, and Advanced Prepared Mix courses developed by our Bakery Consultant Roy Chung at the UFM Baking School in Bangkok, Thailand,” Dr. Liu said. “There is no doubt Mr. Roy is a master of baking and teaching and is very nice to share his technical service expertise and experience with me. Moreover, our Regional Technical Director, Mr. Peter Lloyd, has also provided tremendously valuable guidelines on troubleshooting and solving challenges in flour mills.”

Ting (First from the left, first row) assisted in Mr. Roy Chung’s Advanced Prepared Mix Technology Course in 2019.

Her enthusiastic accounting of the training she has received, and the wide range of technical support she provides make it clear Dr. Liu loves the work she does on behalf of U.S. wheat farmers.

“By visiting and providing technical services to customers, we can better understand customer needs and reflect these requirements to U.S. wheat farmers,” she noted. “At the same time, we can enhance our customers’ effective processing of U.S. wheat flour and how its functional attributes perform for the baker.

“In addition, the seminars and short courses I have conducted can help current and potential customers further understand the characteristics of U.S. wheat and flour, the flour milling process, testing methods, and ways to adjust formulas and processes according to flour specifications. This is of direct benefit to U.S. wheat growers by promoting their wheat to customers in international markets.”

Ting and her bread while attending a BST course at AIB International in 2018.

An Excellent Bridge

In fact, after one recent USW Crop Quality Seminar and a special technical session attended by top Chinese flour mills and food processors, a food company executive commended Dr. Liu’s professional analysis and insight on the supply, quality, and application of U.S. wheat classes.

“She was clear and confident in her presentations and is a knowledgeable expert. I believe she will be an excellent bridge between U.S. Wheat Associates and customers.”

Even in the face of challenging political realities and complex commercial dynamics, private and public customers in China continue to seek information and advice from USW.

“No customer is compelled to work with USW,” Jeff Coey said. “The fact that they choose to accept our service and the products we promote is a testament to everyone on our team,” Jeff Coey said. “Ting complements our ability to earn that trust, understand the constraints, and grasp the opportunities in this market for U.S. wheat. She has a naturally winning way of opening doors for us wherever she goes.”


By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”

Header Photo Caption: Ting presented “International Whole Grain Development” at the 2017 Sino-Foreign Whole Grains Industry Development Experts Forum.


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking
Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry
 Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
Wei-lin Chou – Finding Harmony in the Wheat Industry

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Over the years, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has described the value of U.S. wheat to overseas buyers, millers and wheat food processors in many ways. We have called it “the world’s most reliable choice.” We have suggested it is “the wheat you want from producers you can depend on.” And we have offered it as “high quality wheat for every need with unmatched service and value.”

What we have said about U.S. wheat is not an empty promise. Through seasons of surplus and scarcity, and wide variability in prices, USW continues to make this case because U.S. wheat farmers have consistently produced abundant supplies of excellent quality wheat that has earned an enduring reputation for reliability and value over many years.

Every year, productive U.S. wheat farm families produce enough wheat to fill dinner tables at home, and still have more than half their crops to share with milling and food industries around the world.

As part of our celebration of 40 years operating as USW, we remain true to the differential value of U.S. wheat in this simple expression: “Dependable People. Reliable Wheat.”

Ultimately, USW believes customers from around the world continue to turn to the United States for wheat because buying it carries less risk. U.S. wheat quality is predictable and the Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications. Their inspectors create a shipping log that is available to the buyer as an additional risk management tool.

The Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS), as an objective third party, certifies that all exported wheat meets import specifications.

The U.S. wheat store also offers six distinct classes that are proven specific, high-quality ingredients for any end-product need. Hard red winter, hard red spring, soft white, hard white, soft red winter wheat and durum each offer inherent quality and functional value.

That is reliable wheat.

Moreover, no other wheat seller does more than the United States to add value to its wheat through customer support. At its very base, this support comes from the farm families who take great care in producing the highest quality wheat in the most sustainable ways possible. They work hard each year to grow their farms, honor their family legacies and to ensure greater value for their customers at home and abroad.

In good years and bad, U.S. wheat farmers have supported USW’s effort to work directly with buyers to answer questions and resolve issues in purchasing, shipping or using their six classes of wheat. Their contributions to state wheat commissions who in turn contribute a portion of those funds to USW, which in turn qualifies USW to apply for export market development funds managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

With USW, buyers also get professional technical assistance, education, information and personalized consulting that help strengthen overseas milling, storage and handling, and end product industries.

The highest quality food for the world demands the highest quality wheat. For 40 years dependable people have made the difference.

Today, we remain fixed on the mission of the farmers who created an enduring legacy of commitment and partnership to provide the highest quality wheat for almost every customer need, backed by transparent pricing, trusted third-party certification and unmatched service before and after the sale.

Those are dependable people.

We invite our customers to join us in celebrating our 40th year as USW. We will continue to share the many ways in which the reliability of U.S. wheat and the dependability of U.S. farmers, USW, and our government and educational partners make a positive difference for our customers all over the world.

 

View video on Vimeo.

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The Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP), administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, is intended to help U.S. agricultural exporters develop new markets and help mitigate the adverse effects of other countries’ tariff and non-tariff barriers. One of the ways U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is applying ATP funds is to expand its ability to conduct technical support to wheat buyers and end users in rapidly growing South Asian markets.

USW has had a long-term effort to help customers improve their products and processes through technical support because inexperience in developing market milling and food production sectors can be a constraint to demand for U.S. wheat. In the highly sophisticated wheat food industries in Japan, Korea and other countries, USW’s long-term investment has benefited customers and consumers while establishing strong and consistent export markets for U.S. wheat producers.

USW Baking Consultant Adrian Redondo

In such markets as the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, the imported wheat customer base is expanding, and USW saw a need to increase its technical capabilities to match the growth. At the same time, USW knew that would require additional technical staff and needed to prepare for natural transitions for some senior technical experts.

The addition of ATP funding gave USW the opportunity to add a new Bakery Technician position to work with customers across the South Asian region. Mr. Adrian Redondo, an experienced food technologist and account manager, joined USW in June 2019. He is training with his experienced colleagues and building customer contacts through 2021 when the senior USW bakery consultant based in the Philippines plans to retire. Without additional ATP funding, USW would have had to fund a new technician position from a more limited pool of resources that would, in effect, cut its ability to fund customer activities.

South Asian imports of U.S. hard red spring (HRS), soft white (SW) and hard red winter (HRW) wheat from family farms in the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains have grown from an average of about 3.0 million metric tons (MMT) per year 10 years ago to about 5.0 MMT in 2018/19. Future demand for wheat foods is expected to keep growing in the region.

ATP funding provides a wide range of additional opportunities to continue differentiating U.S. wheat in markets like those in South Asia, with no local wheat production and where increasing incomes and urbanization are driving a rapid expansion of wheat food demand.

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U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is applying Agricultural Trade Promotion (ATP) program funding to hold “Cereal Chemistry Seminars” in 2020 for the milling industries across several countries that are growing in sophistication to meet expanding demand for wheat foods. USW believes that with a more complete understanding of the functional value of wheat proteins, carbohydrates and other properties, flour milling quality control managers will have additional information with which to evaluate the high-quality characteristics of U.S. wheat compared to competing supplies.

To provide the knowledge that will help these managers fully understand the end-use value of U.S. wheat supplies, USW has developed a comprehensive seminar that will be conducted over the next two years in several markets. One of the topics to be covered in the seminars is Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) analysis of flour (photo above Copyright © Chopin Technologies).

USW believes that the evidence is strong supporting SRC as the most effective method for evaluating the true performance characteristics in flour for biscuits (cookies), crackers and cakes, as well as many hard wheat flour applications, is testing for. The SRC Method was created by scientists to identity the important components of wheat flour that affect end-product cost and productivity for cookie and cracker manufacturing. SRC testing reveals that U.S. wheat has strong “character.” In other words, it functions effectively and produces desirable end-products without heavy additive manipulation.

In a brief video, Bongil (Bon) Lee, operations manager with the Wheat Marketing Center in Portland, Ore., describes the basic functions of SRC flour analysis. Click here to view the video.

USW anticipates that after the seminars, participants will have enhanced skills, like being able to use SRC analysis, to assist co-workers, suppliers and customers in developing new formulations requiring more specific flours and increased volumes of U.S. wheat classes. Participants will gain expertise in flour analysis and the importance of specifications required in large production bakeries. And quality control staff will have enough technical capabilities to defend the functional value of high-quality flour from U.S. wheat.

By funding opportunities like Cereal Chemistry Seminars, ATP, an export market development program administered by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, is helping USW continue to give flour milling and baking managers the information they need to meet demanding consumer needs in their local markets while building a preference for U.S. wheat supplies.

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Name: Shin Hak “David” Oh

Title: Food/Bakery Technologist

Office: USW North Asia Region, Seoul Office

Providing Service to: South Korea


The roots of Shin Hak “David” Oh’s food technology career were literally and figuratively fermented in his childhood home in Seoul, South Korea.

The Korean art of making “kimchi” fascinated Oh as a child. Everyone in the family pitched in to salt the vegetables and mix them with chili powder, garlic, ginger, red pepper, sugar, and fish sauce that fermented in earthenware jars, often buried in the ground. It is an ancient process that was first practiced to provide nutritious food through the cold winters and continues to represent the cultural soul of Korea today.

In the arms of his father, a clothing wholesaler, and mother, a homemaker, in 1979.

“I developed a natural interest in fermented food and microorganisms as I helped make our kimchi,” Oh said. “That interest stayed with me as a young person, so I chose to study food and biotechnology at Korea University in Seoul and earned a bachelor’s degree in 2003.”

Now armed with the scientific facts behind how kimchi fermentation removes harmful bacteria and enriches gut-healthy lactobacillus bacteria, Oh decided to pursue a graduate degree at the respected Seoul National University. His work focused on improving food safety and included research on a new regulatory system for inhibiting Salmonella and other pathogens in food. Along the way through university, Oh found time for other important life experiences, including marriage to his wife, Jiae.

Oh’s graduate work at Seoul National University focused on developing methods to inhibit Salmonella and other pathogens in food.

Celebrating Oh’s graduation with a master’s degree in food and biotechnology in 2005 with his wife, Jiae, in his university laboratory.

Professional Success

Oh’s route from food microbiology studies to his current position as Food/Bakery Technologist with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) started in 2005 with his first professional job at SPC Group, the largest bakery company in Korea. As a food safety specialist for two years, Oh helped SPC comply with Korean government food and consumer safety regulations in bakery production, storage, and packaging. He also served on a team that implemented Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) food safety management systems.

Based on the advice of SPC’s food safety center director, Oh successfully pursued a research and development position with the company.

“In that job, I developed several improvers to enhance the quality of pan breads, sweet buns, and frozen dough products,” Oh noted. “I also developed a special ‘sugar-free pan bread,’ which is still sold in some of SPC’s Paris Baguette retail bakeries in Korea.”

His work at SPC, as well as additional hands-on training at AIB International’s “Baking Science and Technology” and “Food Safety and Hygiene” courses, caught the attention of USW Country Director C.Y. Kang. He was looking for candidates to fill a technical support position to expand U.S. wheat export market development in the Korean market.

Oh completed baking technology and food safety courses at AIB International in Manhattan, Kansas, while working at SPC Group in Seoul, South Korea.

 

At SPC, Oh developed a sugar-free pan bread product. In 2013, he was on the factory line as the product was packaged for distribution to SPC’s retail stores.

“David’s great work over eight years at our country’s biggest and most popular commercial and retail bakery was quite impressive,” Kang said. “It also did not take long to see that he is very friendly and kind to everyone. We agreed he would be a great fit with U.S. Wheat Associates and very helpful to our customers in flour milling, baking, and wheat food processing.”

“I went for the position with USW without hesitation, partly because most of the high-quality flour SPC used for bread products was milled from imported U.S. wheat classes,” Oh said. “I had grown passionate about baking at SPC, and I thought the position would also help me expand my knowledge about producing biscuits (cookies), noodles, and other wheat foods.”

Seeking Broader Knowledge at USW

Oh said his expectations were more than met after he started with USW at the beginning of 2015.

“There are many milling, baking, and production experts across our offices and we often help and learn from each other,” he said. “I am a hands-on person, and a technical sales position like this gives me the opportunity to share all of our experience and skills with our customers to help them improve their processes, customer satisfaction, and income using flour made from U.S. wheat.”

That effort takes many forms. One recent example is a seminar held in Korea for bakers from commercial operations in the Philippines.

“Our market is fairly mature with sophisticated processes and very high standards for ingredient quality,” Kang said. “Our USW colleagues wanted to help introduce these processes and new products to customers in the Philippines, so David and I arranged sessions in Seoul at the Korean Baking School and visits to Korean companies for the bakers.”

In addition, Oh has now conducted several baking, biscuit, and noodle production courses at the Korean Baking School in Seoul and, in cooperation with the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC) in Portland, Ore., for technical managers from flour mills and processors. Oh discusses and demonstrates blended flour from U.S. wheat classes to the participants, who then test the blends to identify optimal formulations for their commercial products. Drawing from his research experience at SPC, bakery applications developed at USW courses, and the Korean Baking School, Oh has introduced new products, including whole wheat baked goods made with U.S. wheat flour, in four seminars to approximately 300 commercial bakers.

At a Whole Wheat Flour Seminar hosted by Korean flour milling and commercial baking organizations in 2018, Oh presented ideal U.S. wheat flour formulations for bakery applications developed by USW and Korean customers at several activities.

USW is unique in having strong technical expertise available to customers in their mills and production facilities. This is a key part of Oh’s work.

“I am excited to be part of Korea’s thriving wheat food industry. I enjoy visiting our customers and helping them understand the specific milling and functional characteristics of the U.S. wheat classes available to them and how to apply that knowledge to get the most value from their own mills and end-product processes,” Oh explained. “If they have concerns or need troubleshooting, we can be there with them, and that builds a stronger partnership for the future.”

In cooperation with the Wheat Marketing Center, Portland, Ore., Oh (fourth from right) helped plan and conduct a Korea Baking Product Development course in 2019.

Sharing Knowledge

Oh’s individual efforts in the baking laboratory also come into play as he works to share the results of testing with Korean bakery customers. In 2017 at the Korean Baking School, Oh tested different blends of hard red spring (HRS) and hard red winter (HRW) flour to make sweet buns and blends of HRW and soft white flour to make Korean-style baguettes. He then provided data on the best formulations to customers.

Oh in the laboratory at the Korean Baking School, testing formulations of testing blends of HRW and SW flour for Korean-style baguettes and HRS and HRW flour for sweet buns in 2017.

Differentiating the performance of U.S. wheat in Korean noodles, however, has presented a unique challenge for Oh and for the U.S. farmers he represents.

“Compared to Australia, specifically, there is no single U.S. wheat class with optimal qualities for Korean style noodles,” he said. “So, we have approached that challenge by holding ‘Noodle Flour Blending and Quality’ seminars at the Wheat Marketing Center for as many industry participants as possible. Based on their reports about the seminars, our information has given them reasons to consider blending flour from U.S. wheat. Now, flour from U.S. soft white wheat makes up a 20 percent share of the Korean noodle market.”

An Excellent Balance

Undoubtedly, the level of trust Oh is developing across the diverse Korean industry is boosted by his professional training and experience.

“David has in-depth knowledge on the key facts of wheat flour that are very critical to end-product quality,” said the research and development manager from Korea’s largest instant noodle manufacturer. “I assume that comes from his graduate degree work and experience at SPC Group. He has provided all the results from short courses, seminars, and testing to us and helps us apply that information and U.S. wheat flour formulations effectively in our operation. We very much appreciate his efforts.”

It is said that the five flavors of kimchi (sour, bitter, salty, sweet, and spicy) and their balance permeates every facet of Korean life. Oh finds a similar balance between work and pleasure. His colleagues appreciate that in Oh, as those who have seen an exuberant rendition of the dance moves from K-Pop star PSY’s “Gangnam Style” or seen the pride he takes in his family can attest.

C.Y. Kang put it best: “David is a great asset to the entire USW organization.”


By Steve Mercer, USW Vice President of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”

Header Photo Caption: David Oh conducting a fresh noodle evaluation using U.S. hard white wheat flour blended with Australian Standard White flour at Daehan Flour Mills in Incheon, South Korea.


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

Ting Liu – Opening Doors in a Naturally Winning Way
Tarik Gahi – ‘For a Piece of Bread, Son’
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking
Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry
 Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
Wei-lin Chou – Finding Harmony in the Wheat Industry

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Name: Tarik Gahi

Title: Milling and Baking Technologist

Office: USW Middle Eastern, East and North African Region, Casablanca Office

Providing Service to: North Africa and the Middle East


2018 – Running a Bread test at Atlantic Flour Mills in Morocco using 50% SRW + 50% HRW flour.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Milling and Baking Technologist Tarik Gahi has spent his entire career working with millers from around the world. But the first person to really make his career a passion was his mother.

“The main element on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner table in Morocco is bread. Growing up, my role at home was to follow my Mom’s instructions while helping her turn the wheat into bread. We would weigh 100 kilograms of the wheat stored in the roof, which was carefully hand cleaned, water washed, and spread under the day sun for two days to dry out,” said Gahi. “Then I would take it to a traditional flour mill – meters from our house – and pass on the message that Mom sent with me: ‘Please make the flour coarser and separated from the bran.’ Because if you didn’t ask for it, the worker at the mill would produce whole wheat flour, and my Mom didn’t want the additional job of separating the bran. Without being aware of it, she was a miller.”

(L) Tarik with his Dad in 1985; (R) Tarik with his Mom in 1987

Gahi grew up in Beni Mellal, a small city in Morocco at the base of Taseemit Mountain and near the plains of Tadla, a region known for its olive, wheat, and orange production. He and his two sisters were raised by their father, a philosophy teacher and later a school director, and mother, a homemaker. Growing up, Gahi’s favorite subject was math, so he pursued and received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Ibn Sinaa School in Beni Mellal, Morocco. When deciding what to pursue next, Gahi turned to his uncle, who had previously been the president of the first wheat importing group after the Moroccan wheat market liberalization in the late 1990s. His uncle introduced him to the Moroccan Milling Training Institute (IFIM) and shared with him something he would never forget.

He said, “Tarik, if you ask any Moroccan in the street why he wakes up every morning and goes to work, his answer is always going to be “for a piece of bread, son.” This means that wheat, flour, and bread are in our blood, and any business related to these three may lose at times but never dies.”

Following his uncle’s advice, Gahi studied milling engineering for two and a half years at IFIM, where he was introduced to USW, seeing its logo displayed throughout the school and meeting USW Regional Technical Director Peter Lloyd. After graduation, the top five students from the class, including Tarik, were offered a job in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with Al-Ghurair, one of the largest milling companies in the Middle East.

“At Al-Ghurair, I learned to be patient and never underestimate the people around you, no matter their position,” said Gahi.

After six years with Al-Ghurair, Gahi worked as a mill operation manager at Seaboard West Africa Limited in Sierra Leone for two years, which challenged his managerial skills and taught him the importance of building relationships with customers. Next, Gahi returned to his home country and served as a chief miller at a milling company in Casablanca for three years before finally joining USW in 2015.

2019 – Visiting Bakhresa Group in Tanzania for a trade servicing activity. Beside Tarik (far left) is Peter Muni, current Bakhresa group technical vice president and Gahi’s past colleague from their time together at Al Ghurair Group in UAE.

An Ambassador for U.S. Wheat

The first wheat Gahi ever milled was U.S. hard red winter (HRW) donated by USW through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Quality Samples Program (QSP).

“That marked my professional life a lot. The USW logo was engraved in my mind from my time at IFIM,” said Gahi. “I learned the basics of milling in a school built by USW, and to come back and work with the man who helped train me (Peter Lloyd), was something special. To technically convince people to use a product (wheat) that is a beautiful story for me is a job I want to do for the rest of my life. My story is with U.S. wheat.”

As a Milling and Baking Technologist, Gahi is involved in the development, service, and expansion of technical service for U.S. wheat and wheat products. He conducts cake and cookie courses in USW’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, inviting major regional soft wheat flour users to share with them the quality of U.S. soft wheat and demonstrate its functionality as an ingredient.

2019 – Touring the Bakhresa Mill in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and answering one of the chief miller’s questions about flour extraction and bran.

The MENA region is a wide geographic area comprised of widely differing milling and baking industries. From bakers in large cookie processing companies in Egypt to large flour mills in the UAE, North and West Africa, Gahi is equally at home carrying the message of what benefits U.S. wheat can provide customers.

“My job is to represent U.S. wheat growers in our region, and USW provides the necessary tools and conditions to help me pass on the farmer message to existing and potential customers,” said Gahi.

Through QSP, the same program that Gahi encountered in his first milling training, he now trains other young millers in processing U.S. wheat and helps introduce bakers and biscuit manufacturers to the right flour ingredient for their products.

“Tarik has a really good basic grounding in flour milling technology, upon which he has added layers of technical experience both overseas and in Morocco,” said Lloyd. “He has worked in both large and small mills, both new and older plants, and has furthermore added layers of mill management, quality control, and baking expertise to his basket of skills.”

Tarik Gahi explains variations in a QSP sample during a training at IFIM in 2018.

“Tarik is doing a great job providing technical support,” said a research and development regional manager with a large snack food company in Morocco. “He brings positive and great values to the baking industry through his regular visits and always supports us when needed. We have benefited from his bakery seminars and biscuit trainings.”

Gahi also spends time meeting with bakers and millers across the MENA region to get updates on each country’s market and help troubleshoot their technical problems. These meetings give him the opportunity to build stronger relationships among U.S. wheat customers and helps identify new needs and possible customers in each market.

“Gahi brings a lot of clarification and precious advice to cereals professionals along the supply chain by emphasizing the advantages of U.S. wheat compared to other origins and helps them adapt their practices to extract the most value. And he does that all in three languages,” said a supply chain manager with a grain agency in Algeria. “It is a great honor to work and collaborate with Tarik. His value is characterized by a great education, a great dedication to his work, and a developed professional sense, which all make him an excellent ambassador for U.S. wheat.”

Family

As his mentor, Peter Lloyd has watched Gahi interact with customers and how his unique blend of skills as a “people person” and his ability to communicate in English, Arabic, and French has positively impacted many cultures and markets.

“A major part of the job is the ability to communicate effectively across a very wide range of people, from millionaire industry giants to cleaners in a mill – and here Tarik once again excels,” said Lloyd. “He has an innate ability to communicate with people in our region, putting all at ease and, most importantly – listening effectively. He is just a great guy to work with.”

A USW technical manager trip to the USDA-ARS Soft Wheat Quality Laboratory in Ohio in 2016. Pictured (L to R) Peter Lloyd, USW; Marcelo Mitre, USW; Byung-Kee Baik, USDA-ARS; Brad Moffitt, Ohio Corn & Wheat; and Tarik Gahi, USW.

Lloyd is very proud that his student, colleague, and understudy has become a part of the legacy Lloyd will eventually leave behind.

“As the person who has helped introduce Tarik to U.S. Wheat Associates and perhaps worked more closely with him than anyone – I can say that the future of technical support into the MENA region and across Africa is in excellent hands with Tarik.”

For Gahi, who enjoys playing chess and cycling in his free time (though he says he is tired of being beaten every time he plays chess), family is his most important interest. He is a husband and a father of two small children, but family will always be also woven into his passion for his career.

Tarik and his son.

“Every time I think about my career history, I think about my Mom, Uncle, U.S. Wheat Associates, and Peter Lloyd. If I were asked to give U.S. Wheat Associates a new name, I would simply add the word “family” – U.S. Wheat Associates Family,” said Gahi. “Since I joined USW, I have felt like a member of a family. People care, people respect each other, and people do what it takes to make the family happy.”


By Amanda J. Spoo, USW Director of Communications

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of posts profiling U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) technical experts in flour milling and wheat foods production. USW Vice President of Global Technical Services Mark Fowler says technical support to overseas customers is an essential part of export market development for U.S. wheat. “Technical support adds differential value to the reliable supply of U.S. wheat,” Fowler says. “Our customers must constantly improve their products in an increasingly competitive environment. We can help them compete by demonstrating the advantages of using the right U.S. wheat class or blend of classes to produce the wide variety of wheat-based foods the world’s consumers demand.”

Header Photo Caption: Tarik Gahi (far left) with USW colleagues Mark Fowler, Ian Flagg and Peter Lloyd at the IAOM MEENA meeting in 2017.


Meet the other USW Technical Experts in this blog series:

 

Ting Liu – Opening Doors in a Naturally Winning Way
Shin Hak “David” Oh – Expertise Fermented in Korean Food Culture
Gerry Mendoza – Born to Teach and Share His Love for Baking
Marcelo Mitre – A Love of Food and Technology that Bakes in Value and Loyalty
Peter Lloyd – International Man of Milling
Ivan Goh – An Energetic Individual Born to the Food Industry
 Adrian Redondo – Inspired to Help by Hard Work and a Hero
Andrés Saturno – A Family Legacy of Milling Innovation
Wei-lin Chou – Finding Harmony in the Wheat Industry