From chalkboards to computers, futures evolve with the market

By Ron Sterk

July 26, 2022

Future is now:

From chalkboards to computers,
futures evolve with the market

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One hundred years ago grain futures markets depended on hand signals, observers and chalkboards with posted prices to keep traders on the floor aware of the most recent prices. There was lots of yelling, pushing and shoving and the occasional fistfight, but the process worked amazingly well. Over the past few decades, trading “pits” mostly have given way to computer screens, global instant price updates, funds executing large trading blocks and trading volumes that would have staggered participants a century ago. Agriculture, the industry that started grain exchanges and futures markets, now accounts for only about 3% of global futures and options trading volume. What the next 100 years will bring is hard to fathom amid the rapid-fire changes in the past few decades.

The first 125 years of organized commodities trading saw limited advances — trading was done through open outcry, on trading floors that became known as pits because they were a series of multi-sided downward steps designed to maximize trader visibility and organization by trading period, often with physical samples of the grain being traded to evaluate quality.

The next 25 years laid the groundwork for expansion beyond agricultural and other physical commodities such as crude oil and metals into financial instruments such as contracts on equity indexes, currencies and interest rates and options on agricultural futures, something that was long prohibited. The last 25 years has seen an explosion of activity and volume brought about largely by technology, not the least of which is nearly instant global access to data and near 24-hour trading in many contracts.

What hasn’t changed (arguably) is the purpose of futures markets — to provide a tool to mitigate risk for commodity (and financial instrument) buyers and sellers. Some would argue that the prominence of commodity funds and trading algorithms (as examples) has distorted the original intent of futures markets, from a tool to mitigate risk on commodities to just another investment for large traders. Some acknowledge the critical role played by futures markets but note the vast majority of agricultural commodities and ingredients aren’t traded on futures exchanges. Others maintain that futures remain a legitimate and widely available tool used by producers, processors and food manufacturers (among other industries) to mitigate risk as indicated by soaring volume around the world. All acknowledge the vast volatility in the markets. The process undoubtedly has changed, as have volumes and other key elements of futures markets made possible by technology.

“Due to inflation fears and the devaluing of the dollar’s purchasing power the past 20 years, commodities have become an asset class that investors want to fight against inflation,” said Chris Kristufek, director, Trilateral, Inc., Chicago. “This leads to more money flowing into these food commodity markets, causing more volatility. My guess is that was an unintended consequence of the FED’s monetary policy.”

Exchanges fill a need

It’s been nearly 175 years since the Board of Trade — long the foundation of grain futures trading — was conceived and formed by a group of Chicago merchants to help farmers and commodity consumers manage risk by removing price uncertainty from agricultural products such as wheat and corn. The Board of Trade of Chicago was founded on April 3, 1848, but initially involved only cash trading. The earliest version of the Board of Trade was a group of men who met voluntarily with no legal standing in the city or state. Fittingly for Milling & Baking News, the Board of Trade got its start in rented space above the Gage and Haines’ flour store at 105 South Water Street for $110 per year and included a brick warehouse to store grain. The purpose was to “meet there to consult markets, transact business, etc.,” according to the Chicago Daily Journal. Futures contracts were created in 1865. The Chicago Mercantile Exchange was founded several years later in 1898 with early contracts on butter and eggs, later adding livestock and meat. The CME Clearinghouse was established in 1919.

Then the timeline jumps forward about 50 years to the next major event — the launch of foreign exchange futures in 1972 followed by Eurodollar futures in 1981. The first options on futures contracts were introduced in 1982. Ten years later the first electronic trading system was launched — CME Globex. That changed everything. The CME and CBOT merged in 2007 to establish the CME Group, which also acquired the New York Mercantile Exchange two years later. The newest major derivatives market is the Intercontinental Exchange. Formed in 2000 and launched with electronic trading only, ICE quickly became a global market force with contracts on soft commodities, metals, financial instruments and many others, clearing operations and other services.

While forward thinking merchants brought the Board of Trade to life, the markets eventually developed a life of their own and evolved, with other exchanges around the world, in some cases becoming massive financial institutions that would play a key role in determining the price that producers are paid for raw commodities to what consumers pay for food.

Today there are about 100 exchanges worldwide trading mostly in three broad categories: agricultural commodities, non-agricultural commodities (energy, industrial and precious metals, for example) and financial instruments. The vast majority are traded electronically. Some exchanges trade a single item while others trade nearly all categories. Many trade both futures contracts and options on those futures, among other types of contracts.

Agricultural futures and options include grains, oilseeds and oilseed products, softs (sugar, coffee, cocoa, tea), lumber, cotton and others. Non-agricultural commodity futures and options include precious and industrial metals, crude oil and petroleum products, energy/power (coal, natural gas, electricity, renewables and others), minerals, chemicals, nanomaterials, climate (emissions, carbon offsets and others), freight and others. Financial futures and options include contracts on interest rates, swaps, stock and commodity indexes, individual stocks, treasury bonds, currencies and many others.

Major futures exchanges listed in order of annual volume include the National Stock Exchange of India, B3 (Latin America), CME Group (Chicago Board of Trade, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, New York Mercantile Exchange, Commodity Exchange Inc., Kansas City Board of Trade and NEX Group), and Intercontinental Exchange (ICE, which includes ICE Futures US, ICE Futures Canada, ICE Futures Europe, and others). Dozens of smaller exchanges are scattered around the world, including the key Bursa Malaysia exchange that is the primary palm oil trading market.

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Market concerns persist

Futures markets have never been without their critics. Many farmers have long distrusted futures in part because of the role of the speculator (who is needed to provide liquidity). Others “knew” someone who lost money in the markets. One legitimate concern has been the impact of weather on crops and not absolutely knowing if there would be a crop at the end of the season to deliver or cash settle the contract at or before expiration.

One of the long-running concerns about commodity and ingredient buyers and sellers is that only about 10% of the world’s commodities are listed on a futures exchange. Over time, some of that has been compensated for by forward contracting between producer at some point along the food manufacturing chain mainly on a cash level, and through other creative ways. The same goes for food manufacturers selling their products, often through the use of brokers, wholesalers or distributors.
Stable USA Inc. is implementing a new concept.

“In the world of agriculture, only 16% can be managed with listed futures contracts,” said Jim Sullivan, vice president, Commercial Development, Stable USA Inc. “For some commodities there may be a cross hedge strategy that has mixed effectiveness. What this means is that for most commodities there are no direct tools to use to reliably and effectively manage price risk. Making things more difficult is the fact that exchange-listed futures contracts require active, two-sided liquidity at all times. That is very difficult to achieve in newer or niche commodities and as such, over 95% of new ag futures contracts fail.”

Failures over the years have been numerous, such as the former Kansas City Board of Trade’s millfeed contract, the Minneapolis Grain Exchange’s tiger shrimp contract, and many others. Some have been phased out or revised as the underlying markets changed. For example, the CME started with eggs and butter. Eggs haven’t been traded for decades in large part because the industry transitioned from separate growers and processors into mostly vertically integrated processors, resulting in a loss of liquidity from a two-sided market.

“As the world continues to evolve and commodities become more specialized, correlations deteriorate and cross hedges stop working,” Mr. Sullivan said. “With this specialization comes basis risk. That means that the futures contract that may have previously been correlated to your commodity has now broken down, thus introducing more risk. Live cattle futures versus beef prices is a very recent and perfect example of this problem as COVID disconnected the price of slaughter cattle from the price of meat in the grocer case.”

Stable’s risk management tool is referred to as commodity price insurance. It involves hosting third-party prices (called indexes) that are vetted by Stable analysts and making individual contracts seen as commodity price insurance. The process involves the user selecting the index that best matches their needs, choosing a call spread if the concern is a price increase or a put spread if the concern is a price decrease, customizing the strike price, setting a price limit and the time period to protect. Stable and the customer agree on the price protection, and Stable offsets the risk with A-rated counterparties (insurance). Upon expiration, the contract is settled. It has some aspects of trading options on futures, but it includes non-exchange traded commodities and carries the insurance protection.

Another source at a major grain company expressed concern about the direction futures markets have been heading for some time.

“I personally do not think the day-to-day market is a good risk management tool,” he said. “Is today’s close an accurate value of world grain? Maybe, considering COVID reducing food and fuel demand, threat of Ukraine war increase inflation and recession concern. Funds are trading headlines and momentum, not cash fundamentals. Some would argue the CBOT is catering to funds at the expense of commercials and farmers.”

And he doesn’t expect that situation to get better in the future.

“More of the same,” he said. “Can’t change a large rock that is moving straight downhill.”

Explosive growth

tures and their related derivatives has grown exponentially, suggesting in part that they are working.

“The futures markets, although more volatile recently, have worked quite well,” Mr. Kristufek said. “Ask anyone that took advantage of the price declines due to COVID lockdowns or a forward thinking flour buyer that saw the value in wheat at $5.30 to $5.50, along with its upside potential to $8 that used the futures markets to extend coverage further than normal and avoided many headaches and lock in margins. Without the futures market, many of these long-term opportunities are not available. Used properly, the futures markets can help save companies that would have gone belly up to rising input costs. The futures provide price transparency and solve a huge problem no one talks about — default risk.”

Mr. Kristufek agreed that funds have added difficulty, “as trends can be pushed beyond what he market may think is fundamental value.”

Worldwide exchange-traded derivative volume in May totaled 6,305 million contracts, up 8% from April, up 39% from May 2021 and the second highest month on record, according to the Futures Industry Association, a global trade organization for the futures, options and centrally-cleared derivatives markets. January-May volume totaled 31,273 million contracts, up 31% from the same period in 2021, with most of the increase in equity index contracts. Of the January-May futures and options traded, 72% were equity related (55% equity indexes and 17% individual equities), 9% were currencies, 7% were interest rates, about 3% were energy, about 2% were non-precious metals, about 1% were precious metals and about 3% were other. Agricultural futures and options made up just over 3% of the total. While volume on equity indexes soared 76% from a year ago during the January-May period, agricultural volume declined 20% while prices of many commodities soared to multi-year or even record highs. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for the largest geographic area of trading during January-May with 56% of the total, followed by North America with 23%, Latin America with 11%, Europe with 7% and other areas with about 3%. CME Group ranked second by volume in 2020 followed by B3. In 2021, B3 passed the CME Group for second place.

For all of 2021, exchanges in the Asia Pacific region traded a total volume of 30.55 billion contracts, up 52% from 2020 and nearly double the North American volume of 15.38 billion contracts, followed by Latin America with 8.89 billion contracts and Europe with 5.45 billion contracts.

The National Stock Exchange of India remains the largest market by volume with 17.26 billion contracts in 2021, followed by Brazil’s B3 with 8.76 billion contracts, the CME Group with 4.94 billion contracts, the Intercontinental Exchange with 3.32 billion contracts and Nasdaq with 3.29 billion contracts, according to the FIA.

The exchanges constantly are looking for new contracts and new types of contracts to entice traders and boost earnings.

The CME Group in late June said it will introduce “event contracts” on Sept. 19, aimed at the non-professional trader.

“Designed especially for the retail audience, these contracts will allow individuals to trade their views on daily up or down price moves in some of the world’s most widely quoted benchmark futures markets, beginning with E-mini S&P, E-mini Nasdaq 100, E-mini Dow Jones Industrial Average, E-mini Russell 200, crude oil, natural gas, gold silver, copper and Euro FX,” the CME said. “These new daily options contracts will offer short-term trading opportunities for individuals seeking to take a position on daily price moves and will allow participants to know their maximum profit or loss when entering a trade. Each event contract is valued up to $20 per contract.” No agricultural contracts are included.

The CME Group event contracts appear to be one of the first moves by an exchange into the “retail” market, one that largely is untapped currently. Participants still will need to open an account with a brokerage firm that supports event contracts, and fees will be involved. While the risk or gain per trade is limited and spelled out for the participant, a total of 250 contracts can be traded in a single order, so gains or losses could be significant.

“I feel the commodity markets are functioning fairly well,” said Robert Bresnahan, president of Trilateral, Inc., Chicago. “The problem is extreme volatility. That has been brought about by the computerization of trading; 70% to 80% of trades are thought to be done by computers without human intervention.

“Going forward, end users will have to adapt to the money flows of commodity funds, similarly to how commercial firms adjusted to the first commodity funds in the early 1980s. I see end users/hedgers moving more quickly toward utilizing options or option strategies to protect themselves from extreme volatility. Bottom line, the personality of commodity markets hasn’t changed, it’s just the amount of money and size of the players have grown larger.”

With change also comes risk. Mr. Kristufek said he doesn’t expect major structural changes in futures markets any time soon. He noted that financial regulation tends to occur in waves depending on the mood of the people, and one should be aware that could happen. “But nothing I see on the horizon.”

“Changing one or two elements in a complex, multi-faceted system often leads to unintended consequences,” Mr. Kristufek said.

“A buyer’s job has become more difficult,” Mr. Kristufek said. “They need to educate themselves on the language of the markets, including fund positions. Those that will, most likely will prosper. Those that do not, will find it increasingly difficult to understand price moves. The best thing to change is that market participants, especially commodity buyers, become more educated on how financial markets work and empower themselves with the knowledge and know-how to navigate it better. One big reason financial markets are so dynamic is that many participants have little knowledge and no value system for the product they are trading when entering a market.  Without knowledge or values, you are prone to act with the herd. Commodity buyers have a competitive advantage because they need to use their product (versus pure speculation); thus, they have a value system. If they buy too high, at least they can take delivery and use it, then average down. A speculator has to liquidate and take loss. A buyer also knows what price works for his/her company. This value system should help them make better decisions and avoid the herd.”

No one can predict where trading will be 100 years from now, or even 50 years from now. Even at the turn of the century, few if any in the year 2000 foresaw markets where they are at today with Asia and Latin America displacing North America (mainly Chicago) as the largest derivatives markets. Is the future in retail? Is it in creatively finding ways to mitigate risk outside of derivative markets for the vast number of non-exchange traded products? Or more likely, is it something no one has even thought of yet?

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange was founded in 1898 with early contracts on butter and eggs, later adding livestock and meat.

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Wheat futures markets vastly different from 100 years ago

Commodity exchanges that trade wheat futures and options nearly are unrecognizable from 50 years ago, not to mention a century ago.

Early markets typically developed trading of wheat and other commodities grown within a geographic region nearest the city or exchange: soft red winter wheat grown in the eastern and Central states traded in Chicago, hard red winter wheat grown mainly in the Southern Plains traded in Kansas City, hard red spring wheat grown mainly in the Upper Midwest traded in Minneapolis, Canadian spring wheat grown in the Prairie Provinces traded in Winnipeg, European milling wheat traded in Paris, etc. In the earliest markets, the physical commodity was traded between farmers and millers or other users. When futures contracts were created in the second half of the 19th century, the exchanges developed trading floors, or pits, that allowed for open outcry trading between buyers and sellers, including floor traders who provided much-needed liquidity.

Early exchanges were called the Chamber of Commerce in some cities (Kansas City and Minneapolis) because of their importance to regional commerce, but names later were changed because of confusion with the Chamber of Commerce business organization. While each exchange set the benchmark for its specific type of wheat, volume on the Chicago Board of Trade eclipsed the other exchanges, drawing away much needed liquidity to keep trading floors viable.

The commodity stayed the same, but the advent of electronic trading changed everything about the trading process.

Trading floors or pits no longer were needed as buyers and sellers were matched on electronic trading platforms, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Globex System and the Chicago Board of Trade’s e-cbot platform. The liquidity-starved smaller exchanges now had a way to maintain the integrity of their specific type of wheat while gaining the liquidity of a much broader trading universe if they participated in the larger exchanges’ electronic platforms.

The Winnipeg Commodity Exchange was the first North American market to go fully electronic on the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in 2007. The Kansas City Board of trade first was listed on the CBOT’s e-cbot system in 2004 and transitioned to the CME’s Globex platform in 2007 with the merger of the CME and the CBOT. The Minneapolis Grain Exchange was acquired by Miami International Holdings, Inc., in 2020 and trades on that platform. Matif now is part of Euronext.

The era of open outcry grain trading in North America ended when the CME Group permanently closed most of its physical trading pits in 2021.

Future is now: Incremental advances improve highly efficient, labor-light flour mills

By Matt Noltemeyer

June 28, 2022

Future is now:

Incremental advances improve
highly efficient, labor-light flour mills

On the occasion of its 100th year chronicling the evolution of milling in the United States and reporting on the commodity markets that feed the world, Milling & Baking News spoke with milling experts about the technological leaps, bounds and baby steps that led to the modern flour mill.

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A grain professional’s device pings early on a Wednesday: A VP has a VIP in need of 30,000 cwts of bread flour, ASAP.

Since the mill had cake flour grind scheduled today, the worker mentally tallies the steps to make the switch.

He pours a coffee, commutes to the cozy cockpit of his home office, fires up the machinery and completes an authenticator eye scan.

A few taps at the tablet and he’s put the cake flour grind on hold. A few more taps and the line, in the plant a few miles away, begins to make the necessary adjustments for milling hard red winter wheat into bread flour without ever turning the lights on.

Another couple keystrokes and the soft WIP — work in progress — wheat is set for a few more hours in the temper bin. Next, the automated mill dutifully collects a precise volume of winter wheat, dampens it with the additive solution that will have the bran toughened just right and the endosperm appropriately mellow by the mid-morning coffee break.

During the grind, the mill will continually monitor quality parameters and issue data on each wheat berry. Should a problem arise with the specs or a mechanical part, the mill will divert product to a holding bin while troubleshooting takes place, avoiding a mess on the floor. A self-regulating pneumatic system will convey just enough product to avoid wasting energy and adjust automatically if the flow rate deviates.

A scene from a wheat miller’s dream?

Yes and no.

More precisely, that tableau mixes technologies already used in many flour mills that are expected to become more refined, more efficient and more commonplace in the coming years, with what some see as “the Holy Grail of wheat milling.”

On the occasion of its 100th year chronicling the evolution of milling in the United States and reporting on the commodity markets that feed the world, Milling & Baking News spoke with milling experts about the technological leaps, bounds and baby steps that led to the modern flour mill; where flour production technology most likely is headed next; and what improvements will transform the industry when value-added solutions to age-old problems emerge. Some milling equipment manufacturers were reluctant to be interviewed because they didn’t want to give away ideas they were working on or developing

Millstones and pneumatics

In the beginning there were millstones. By the 15th century, millers began to work out the grind-sift-grind process to reduce the kernel, endosperm and bran into flour.

Innovations such as the roller milling system in the 1870s revolutionized the industry to a degree that perhaps hasn’t yet been eclipsed. After all, rollers endure as the foundational technology in the world’s newest, largest, most efficient flour mills.

Incremental advances consistently reduced the mill labor force, eventually eliminating such roles as smutters controlling the clearing house, bolters steering the sifting house, truckers tugging the hand carts. By the 1950s, longer-lasting parts meant equipment broke down less often. When pneumatic conveying superseded bucket elevators, mills became cleaner, safer places with fewer sweepers.

“The genius of the gradual reduction system of milling is that a mill can produce multiple grades of flour contemporaneously, fine cake flour, pretzel flour, cookie flour,” said Richard Siemer, president of Siemer Milling, Teutopolis, Ill. “We can blend it back and forth and sift it apart. Milling technology, at the heart of it, is innovations that took place in the 1700s and the middle-1800s. For the most part, in the 20th and 21st centuries, what we’ve been seeing is just refinement. If we could resurrect a good miller from a good mill who died in 1900, bring him into a modern mill today, he’d understand the process almost immediately. You would of course have to train him on computers, and the scarcity of mill workers would be part of his cognitive dissonance.”

For the near term, more such incremental improvements to existing technologies are expected. For example, while pneumatic cleaning systems are more sanitary, they tend to use more energy than mechanical sorting. The US power grid amply provides for that. But in other countries and with customer expectations trending green, there is an opportunity to raise the efficiency of the cleaner technology.

The new mills that have come online in the past five years are some of the largest in the world, a trend that’s likely to continue.

“If you check into Sosland’s Grain & Milling Annual archives, as I do from time to time, and you look back into the 1980s, 10,000 sacks a day, or 600 tons, was a pretty big mill, but I don’t think that would make the list of the 25 biggest mills in the states today,” said Scott Martin, senior director of technical milling with Ardent Mills, Denver. “Back then, I worked at a 10,000-sack mill that had two sifter floors, 17 individual sifters, holding about 94 sifter sections. A modern 10,000-sack-a-day mill has maybe 4 sifters and maybe half as many sections. Fewer machines, bigger machines make for more simplicity, fewer labor resources, which are good improvements, and it’s good to see progress.”

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NIR and working from afar

A flour mill today is an efficient, computerized version of the roller mill and gradual reduction systems in place for many decades. Millers who in the 1960s looked to floor spills to spot problems now have a real-time understanding of how each element in the plant is performing, all viewed from screens in a control room or even from another location. That area continues to expand with each generation of technology introduced. The miller who in the 1970s regularly replaced worn belts to avoid potential fire hazards now runs lines mostly controlled by direct drives and, increasingly, variable frequency drives to run fans, airlocks and other components intelligent enough to sense a potential stoppage and divert product before the elements likely to cause combustion align.

The arrival of NIR, or near-infrared reflectance, meant millers no longer had to manipulate samples with their fingers or take them off site to a lab where a technician with a scale and an oven took four hours to test the product. NIR shortened the wait to minutes. Moving the data analysis computer to the mill streamlined things, as did training millers to calculate their own results. The latest updates automated the process and moved it online.

“Knowing the quality of flour is important, and if it can be done automatically, it frees the shift miller to do something that can’t be done automatically, plus the mill and its customers get a better measure of quality because we’re measuring it all the time,” Mr. Martin said. “If a quality parameter isn’t where it needs to be, we can divert that product to a different storage bin, do some troubleshooting and know we have that product isolated for corrective action. A mill has to have the resources behind it to keep the instruments calibrated, and with most now on a network, it’s all about whether the network is strong enough. It’s a pretty exciting part of where the industry is going.”

These technologies and other examples of mills essentially running themselves are the future of flour milling, experts said. Already there are autonomous mill tracks in place that can run without a human in the building. It’s commonly called lights-out milling because when the miller leaves the area and the sensor times out, darkness ensues, but the mill continues to clean, sort, sift and grind.

Multi-national equipment manufacturers such as Bühler are striving to stay at the forefront of automation innovation.

“Their ambition is to create an autonomous mill that really could operate by itself if a company wanted to or needed to,” Mr. Siemer said. “You can’t eliminate the human factor, but it’s another step toward automation.”

As the 21st century rolls on, experts foresee manufacturers such as Bühler incorporating more electronics, more sensors, and enhancing multi-point sensor-based data collection. Essentially, sensors present real-time data on the temperature of the equipment, vibration, throughput and many more that comprise a massive trove of measurements being taken every second. Mills have to figure out what data are important for their grind and how to apply it toward improving the process. That typically means using data to improve mill yield, to keep flour products within specifications and to run in the most energy efficient way possible.

“The challenge is doing something with the data to tell us more about flour quality and productivity and energy usage — that’s when the data adds value,” Mr. Martin said. “You have to have the means to analyze data and then put value into what the data tells you. We’re just on the cusp of that. We’re starting to have roller mills that can tell us about roll temperature and roll force and kilowatts consumed — all toward reaching maximum efficiency and productivity.”

Another key benefit? Integrated control systems that join on-site and remote management enabling remote troubleshooting.

“In our case, working with Bühler, a miller can literally dial up Switzerland or Minneapolis and ask that person to get online and view the operating parameters and consult on what to do about it,” Mr. Siemer said. “Software suppliers can open the hatch, get inside and try to diagnose your system. Millers in different locations of the same organization can also share information with each other. It’s something we’ve just been able to do within the past few years, to call on experts, reliable people from different places and have them actually participate in the troubleshooting process in real time.”

As US flour mills continue to migrate to new technology and processes that are more autonomous, there will be a need for skilled mill workers schooled in the new and the old, said Kent Juliot, vice president of research, quality and technical services with Ardent Mills.

“Even in 10 years, the industry will still have older mills, so you’ll need people that know both sides, those who can manually adjust mill rolls but also understand the logic of an automated controls system,” Mr. Juliot said. “With labor shortages, newer systems can reduce the number of people needed, but the pressure from the technical side will be even greater, because the education and knowledge will have to span all the way down to just above the waterwheel. The future of milling is going to be exciting and new, but we can’t forget the old.”

Sorted and binned

The methods for removing corn, soybeans, husks, straw and other dockage from incoming wheat were once limited to a basic separator and a scourer to clean out the dust from the crease. Mechanical cleaning gave way to aspiration, which paved the way for precision grain cleaning systems such as the color, or optical, sorter. It’s the closest thing to a revolutionary technology the industry had seen in about 60 years.

These cleaning systems combine sophisticated cameras with precision equipment using sharp blasts of air to knock out impurities that may have commingled with wheat at an elevator or aboard a rail car. It eliminates non-grain contaminants and sorts supplies by characteristic. Color sorters have improved consistently since their debut. Today, most all new plants employ them, and many older mills have retrofitted them. The technology has moved from black-and-white to color cameras and now to infrared scanning. Sorting technology today allows mills to better handle damaged wheat. For example, it can salvage more good wheat from a shipment with elevated dockage, disease such as scab and other macrotoxins, such as vomitoxin. It’s clear to experts that the future holds further refinement of optical sorting technology.

“Mill technology keeps improving, and if we think to the future, the technology in sorters will probably blow our minds in ways we can’t even dream of right now,” Mr. Juliot said. “For example, they currently use spectral analysis that can give you an actual analysis of each individual wheat berry and, in my opinion, they’ll become amazingly high-tech in the foreseeable future.”

Cleaning out impurities relies on the color sorter, which compares kernels with references it’s already learned, and reacts quicker than any human ever could. But what of the nearly invisible threats to food safety, the mycotoxins? Cutting-edge technology on the horizon aims to eliminate them with a method more efficient and economical than ever at a time when the US Food and Drug Administration has indicated pathogens are on their radar and near the top of their list.

“Pathogens are right up there with leafy greens and everything else on FDA’s list, so having a mitigation step in place, they expect you to have it,” said Brad Allen, chief technical officer at PHM Brands, Denver.

Several methods of handling this problem are on the horizon. One of those already operates at PHM’s Dawn, Texas, plant, having been adapted for the food industry by PHM Brands’ Energis Solutions in a joint venture with the technology’s inventors. Energis is manufacturing equipment that produces a treatment solution on site. It yields a similar reduction to other systems developed since the turn of the century 22 years ago, “but we’re doing the head end of the process, so you’re not making a ready-to-eat claim like other methods do, but you’re getting the brand protection and you’re not going to get a recall,” Mr. Allen said.

The advance of that and future pathogen elimination technologies could spur adoption of an industry-wide standard, a development that would please Mr. Siemer.
“It’s not something I’d like to make any money on as a proprietary advantage,” he said. “I’d just like to have everybody agree that we’re going to use it for certain products. And I’d like to see it applied to flour rather than wheat, because that gives you a lot more flexibility. Unfortunately, none of the systems that I’m aware of right now are used on flour, they’re used on wheat before milling. It gets kind of complicated. I know it’s significant right now, and I think it’s going to become more so.”

Genomes and unknowns

Some of the innovations likely to shape and shift flour production in the future are beyond the horizon for now. Breeders manipulate wheat to create varieties more likely to thrive in certain growing environments or to increase resistance to disease pressure. At some point, experts said, biotechnology and research in the wheat genome will generate some major advances to the milling process of flour production. That may have to do with the ease of processing the kernel, adjusting qualities such as protein, reducing gluten’s impact on those afflicted with celiac disease, or increasing gluten strength for use in pizza doughs, variety bread, and perhaps even pancakes.

“As long as wheat quality is, as they used to say, 70% nature and 30% nurture, or 30% genetics, 70% environment, you’re not going to be able to be really precise, but I believe that biotechnology will soon have the biggest impact on the wheat foods industry in a positive way,” Mr. Siemer said. “If as many resources had been put into breeding wheat as have been put into breeding corn over the past 90 years, we’d be a lot further along, but that’s our particular cross to bear.”

Near the top of Mr. Siemer’s wish list is a boost to soft wheat resistance to alpha-amylase activity. That’s an enzyme in the wheat that starts to break down the endosperm very shortly after the kernel is fully ripe, especially if moisture is introduced via rain on a mature, ripe crop. It leads to sprouting, which reduces the viscosity of the flour and locks it out of some applications, such as pie crusts.

“If wheat could just sit out there in the field for a week without degrading, as distinct from sitting out there for an hour if it starts raining, that would be enormous for the milling quality of wheat and would be one factor in the attractiveness of wheat as a crop here in the eastern Corn Belt,” Mr. Siemer said. “It would be more reliable. Farmers would know when they harvested it that it would be of good quality.”

After quality is established, wheat headed for the mill typically stops off for a lengthy stay in the temper bin to ready the kernels for efficient sorting. Of all the advances in milling over the years, the temper time has proven a tough nut that’s yet to be cracked.

“One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the miller’s desire for 24 hours of temper time for milling hard wheat,” Mr. Martin said. “If we could find a means to achieve the physical changes to the wheat kernel in a shorter time, it would be greatly beneficial. Bigger mills require more space for work-in-progress, or tempered, wheat. Bigger bins mean greater capital investment.

“Also, if the mill is grinding spring wheat and the flour silos get full, I still have all that spring wheat WIP in my temper bins. I can’t change to another grist, so the mill has to stop and wait for space to come available in the flour silos. Mills with a 24-hour temper time have to know what they’re going to do tomorrow today. They can’t turn the mill on a dime so to speak.”

There have only been marginal improvements in tempering over the past few years. A step-change in technology to shorten the planning cycle or the development of an additive to reduce temper time to just a few hours but retain the effects for optimal grind is seen by the industry as a Holy Grail because of the flexibility it would enable.
“If there were a way to do that,” Mr. Juliot said, “it would be transformative.”

Until such an innovation comes along, improvements in flour milling efficiency, efficacy and food safety will continue to be incremental, millers and grain industry leaders say. And that’s not a bad thing, Mr. Siemer noted.

“I heard a miller say 45 years ago in one of my first months in the business, ‘I’d hate to be the person known for building the last grind-and-sift flour mill,’” he said. “But honestly, we’ve gone for all these decades, and nobody has come up with a better way of making flour, so we’ll see.” what happens.”

Anhui Jietal Intelligent Technology

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Content and Integrity: the Milling & Baking News story

By Laurie Gorton

March 8, 2022

Content and Integrity:
the Milling & Baking News story

The 100-year-old magazine helps managers keep supply and demand in balance by assisting the industry in keeping its eye on the ball.

The mission was ambitious, and so were the three brothers who established the trade journal known today as Milling & Baking News. Now reaching its milestone 100th year, the publication launched by Samuel, David and Sanders Sosland on March 7, 1922, as The Southwestern Miller has lived up to their promises … and much more.

At the heart of this very commercial venture was an absolute commitment to the integrity of its content. This approach proved its value time after time. At first, that duty was to the millers of the southwestern United States; it would grow to encompass the whole world.

The new magazine addressed readers in a box on the cover of its Vol. 1, No. 1 issue by describing the journal’s purpose: “The Southwestern Miller will voice specifically the news of the Southwest, which, as the largest producer of flour and as the leader in the extension of wheat production, should command the attention not only of millers but of flour handlers throughout the world.”

L. Joshua Sosland, president, Sosland Publishing Co.; editor, Milling & Baking News; and editor-in-chief, Food Business News, emphasized, “Equally important was a pledge in the first issue to ‘strive for accuracy, to be fair, to be prompt and to labor unceasingly to render the service (we have) undertaken to perform.’”

Setting up for success

Why was Kansas City such an appealing place in 1922 for a new business-to-business newspaper to serve the grain-based foods industry? Simply put, the time was ripe for the flour and grain business community and for the hard red winter wheat grown in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

In the early 1920s, forceful economic change was blowing through wheat farms and flour mills throughout the nation. Until then, the wheat business divided itself into distinct zones with highly localized markets. Flour milled from wheat grown in the Southwest went primarily into the family flour market, while white wheat growers and millers in the Northwest (the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana) mostly sold flour to commercial bakeries. During World War I, however, the US Army took advantage of the abundant supply of lower-cost hard red winter wheat grown in Kansas and the Southwest.

“When my father and uncles started out, flour milling was the biggest industry in the US,” the late Morton Sosland, the magazine’s longtime editor-in-chief, told a biographer in 2008. “More than half of all flour milled in the US went into the family flour market. That changed after World War I, when home baking began its long decline. Southwestern mills were forced to find a new business among commercial customers and industrial bakers.”

The need for a new voice

“I believe the reason that the southwestern mills represented such an opportunity to the Soslands was because those mills perceived an increasingly pressing need for new markets,” Josh Sosland said. Family flour was mostly a local affair, and its millers marketed it like any other retail packaged food: through local newspaper advertising.

“They didn’t need business-to-business publications,” Josh Sosland said. “That changed after World War I with the decline in home baking.”

Although plenty of publishers covered milling, none addressed the specific issues of interest to mills in the Southwest and the hard red wheat grown there.

The Sosland brothers, two of them fresh out of World War I military service, had found positions as reporters covering grain markets for several Kansas City and St. Louis area publications. Emmet Hoffman, head of The Kansas Flour Mills Corp., the largest milling company in Kansas, buttonholed the three brothers at a regional millers’ meeting and made the case that millers in the Southwest deserved their own journal.

“Mr. Hoffman recognized the Soslands as knowledgeable about grain and milling,” said Neil Sosland, executive editor, markets, Milling & Baking News. His father and uncles had been thinking about creating a publishing business of their own. They considered several fields, including banking and financial markets.“But flour milling is the one that suited them best,” he observed.

The Southwestern Miller’s first issue carried a folio of 36 pages and 106 ads, printed in what would today be considered tabloid format: 10½ by 13½ inches. Its masthead listed only three names: David N. Sosland, editor and manager; Samuel Sosland, managing editor; and Sanders Sosland, associate editor. It also listed a subscription price of $2 per year in the United States, Cuba and Mexico. The remainder of the world could get it for $3 per year. Single copies were 10¢.

The magazine was launched with regular columns about “Markets of the Southwest,” “The Central States,” “Markets of the East,” “The Week on Millfeed Markets,” “Transportation,” “Southern States,” “Cotton, Jute & Burlap” and “The Flour Tribunal” with columnists who covered transportation and legal matters.

Neil Sosland added, “The reader that the founders envisioned was a small local flour mill that dealt only with customers in the local area. Subsequently, because this magazine also dealt with bakers, we did expand to baking and feed milling.”

Solid mission

The magazine was launched with a tight regional focus, but as Josh Sosland said, “Even at the start, the editors noted the importance of keeping abreast of global issues. They declared, ‘The Southwestern Miller will not be provincial. No miller and no individual or organization can succeed if provincial in any branch of the milling business, where it is constantly necessary to cope with world trade factors.’”

Market analyses have always been the magazine’s mainstay, but also appealing were the many “Notes” in the form of personal references to industry leaders, most of which grew out of their visits to the editorial offices. When Morton Sosland became the chief editor, the opinion columns he wrote titled “Peregrinations” — brief editorials, often light or personal in nature — served a similar purpose.

Convention coverage was a constant from the start, as were regular reports on new and pending federal legislation and regulations, and international markets. Covering financial results of public companies became an early hallmark.

“Government always has played a great role in US agriculture and food industries and, thus, in our magazine,” said Jay Sjerven, senior editor, markets, Milling & Baking News and Food Business News. “Some would argue too great a role.”

His beat also covers Washington news.

“But no matter whether helpful or frustrating, what government does is important, as it manages trade and farm policy and sets the rules of the road for food manufacturers,” he said. “The editors of The Southwestern Miller certainly understood this from the get-go, reporting on directions and government policy with an eye to what flour milling executives simply had to know.”

Recognition was a big part of the Sosland brothers’ publishing strategy.

“Sam and his brothers were strong believers in putting peoples’ names into the magazine, noting how much readers liked that,” Morton Sosland wrote in 2008, “but spelling the name right and getting the correct title and company name were also important.”

Josh Sosland added, “The mission of Milling & Baking News hasn’t changed much. We take it to be: to provide important, timely, accurate and actionable information to the grain-based foods industry.

“It’s true that the magazine initially was aimed at serving the milling industry of the Southwest. Today, we serve the entire grain-based foods industry with Milling & Baking News and the entire food industry with our sister publication Food Business News.”

Even though the magazine charged its readers for their subscriptions, advertising helped pay the bills from the beginning.

“A big part of the success of my father and uncles was the ability to bring in advertising, even the ‘inch’ ads,” Neil Sosland said. “It had to be a combination of revenue from subscriber and advertiser to make this publication work.”

Of all the companies advertising in 1922 only two operate under the same name today: Commerce Bank, Kansas City, and Shawnee Milling Co., Shawnee, Okla. Shawnee Milling continues as a family business, now run by the third and fourth generations. Although publicly owned since 1975, Commerce Bank still draws its key executives from the Kemper family who owned the bank when The Southwestern Miller was launched.

David N. Sosland, Sanders Sosland and Samuel Sosland.

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Preparing purchasers

On June 5-7, 2022, the Sosland Publishing Purchasing Seminar will convene its 44th annual gathering. In addition to presentations on major ingredient markets and energy, topics to be covered include the weather outlook, transportation, the economy and consumer trends, plus risk management.

A year before the 1977 inaugural seminar, the company presented a conference inspired by America’s bicentennial celebration and reflecting on breadstuffs over those 200 years. Its featured speakers were many of the industry’s top leaders, the presidents and chairmen of major grain, baking and milling enterprises worldwide. Milling & Baking News published a special issue containing all the speeches given at that 1976 meeting.

Josh Sosland, company president and editor of Milling & Baking News, said that the 1976 meeting and an earlier 1972 gathering to celebrate the magazine’s 50th birthday inspired Morton Sosland to create an “evergreen” event, one that could be repeated annually.

“The guts of the original Purchasing Seminar are still there today,” Josh Sosland said. “However, we have added subjects appealing to other sectors of the food industry. That means sacrificing some of the specialized coverage, for example, lengthy presentations on durum and soft spring wheat, among others.” (On-going analysis of these crops is reported in Milling & Baking News, and their technological developments are discussed at the Wheat Quality Council’s annual meetings normally held in February.)

“It has moved from baking-centric to food-centric,” Josh Sosland noted. “It now covers proteins, meat and poultry, and similar topics. It also has added more commentary on risk management. Thus, the Purchasing Seminar helps train the next generation of ingredient buyers about the technologies and market conditions specific to the ingredients they will purchase.”

There were about 200 people at the first Purchasing Seminar. Attendance peaked at 800 for the 2015 seminar, which also celebrated Sosland Publishing’s 75th anniversary. It outgrew its original site, Kansas City’s Alameda Hotel (now the InterContinental), and moved to the Sheraton at Crown Center. It was even held in Chicago.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the company to cancel its 2020 Purchasing Seminar; however, it developed a substitute video web series offered in June 2020 with presentations from many of the originally scheduled speakers. In October 2021, it reinstated the in-person Purchasing Seminar at Kansas City and is currently planning for 2022, likely to be in-person as well.

Recruiting the speakers has been the responsibility, successively and successfully, of Morton Sosland, Mark Sabo and now Josh Sosland, with the assistance of the company’s editors. The business of the purchasing seminar, registration, fees, housing and speaker arrangements, rested first with Donna Tartar, then Barbara Mount, and today is managed by Christina Sullivan.

Sosland Publishing also pursued a transportation seminar for about 10 years during the 1970s.

Outsiders turned insiders

While folks named Sosland shaped the magazine’s first 50 years, as the company grew it came to rely on more and more staff drawn from outside the family. Three such individuals who most affected Milling & Baking News’ direction were Mel Sjerven, Gordon Davidson and Mark Sabo.

In 1968, Morton Sosland invited Mel Sjerven, then a Minneapolis-based stringer with 17 years of reporting for The Southwestern Miller, to move to Kansas City in a larger role. He became the first full-time editor hired outside the family. Even after he retired in 1990, he continued to contribute to Sosland projects, coordinating speakers for the Purchasing Seminar, held annually in June.

“Mel Sjerven was recognized as a great friend to the flour milling industry and, in fact, was a great friend to many individual millers,” said his son, Jay Sjerven, who joined the company in 1981. “His strong personal relationships with milling executives brought both great accuracy and richness to market reporting. His objectivity and discretion were respected and valued by all.”

Mr. Davidson, a veteran newspaper reporter and editor, was hired in 1972 as an associate editor and special project manager of Milling & Baking News. He became managing editor of the magazine in 1986.

“Gordon set a good example for us.” Josh Sosland recalled. “Even in the middle of a crisis, he remained calm and laid-back, always getting the job done.”

During its first half century, magazine advertising was sold primarily by Dave Sosland. On recommendation from the Millers’ National Federation (MNF), the brothers hired Jerry A. Machalek in 1968 as assistant editor. He was assistant to the publisher from 1972 to 1978. He established a professional advertising sales staff, which included Mark Sabo. He became well-recognized for his influence in the milling and baking fields, earned during his years as the magazine’s chief sales executive.

“What I appreciated most about Mark Sabo was his willingness to embrace history but also to look forward, to develop, nurture and expand Milling & Baking News and the company into new areas, as when we launched World Grain and later Food Business News,” said G. Michael Gude, publisher, Milling & Baking News, Food Business News and Baking & Snack. “He was able to recognize trends and take advantage of them, thus well-nurturing the legacy product. He did both with so much tenacity.”

Mr. Sabo rose to assistant publisher in 1980 and to president and publisher of Milling & Baking News in 1986 before his retirement in 2015.

Both Josh Sosland, who succeeded Mr. Sabo as company president, and Mr. Gude, who followed Mr. Sabo as Milling & Baking News publisher, described him as crucial to the development of the magazine and company.

Josh Sosland noted specifically, “Mark was a force helping lead us beyond being a one-title publishing company. Working with Morton, Mark led Milling & Baking News into its role as the incubator for Baking & Snack, World Grain and Food Business News, magazines that greatly expanded the company’s horizons.”

For most of the magazine’s first 50 years, it and Sosland Publishing Co. were synonymous. Only during the 1970s, did management consider adding new titles to the company’s portfolio.

Tracking the leaders

Corporate Profiles, a special issue introduced by Milling & Baking News in 2002, was expanded in scope three years later with the debut of Food Business News. Jeff Gelski, senior editor, was appointed the annual edition’s managing editor. He and editors from many other Sosland magazines do the research, write and edit the publication.

“The past two decades of Corporate Profiles show how companies in the food and beverage industry have evolved.” Mr. Gelski said.

He noted the important changes over this period.

“After Interstate Brands Corp. declared bankruptcy and later was sold off, Grupo Bimbo and Flowers Foods became dominant in the bread industry,” he said. “Flowers bought the Wonder bread brand once owned by Interstate and then acquired Dave’s Killer Bread. Bimbo also was active in acquisitions, including the Sara Lee brand of fresh bakery products. Kraft spun off the Nabisco business that included Oreos and other snacks, calling it Mondelez International, and later merged with Heinz to become Kraft Heinz.”

All of this, and more, is what is described in Corporate Profiles.

“Walmart and Kroger increased their presence in food and began appearing in Corporate Profiles,” Mr. Gelski continued. “The plant-based trend annually appears in Corporate Profiles now that Beyond Meat trades publicly. Amazon also made appearances in Corporate Profiles, which signified how online sales have grown. Once COVID-19 hit, restaurant chains scrambled to increase digital ordering capabilities. Those companies are now also represented in this special issue.”

The winds of history

Change is a constant in a field whose economic size places it at the top of the food processing industry, rivaled only by the meat and dairy sectors. Josh Sosland described the themes and events that shaped Milling & Baking News over the past 100 years: Industry consolidation, something that continues to the present day among bakers and their suppliers; the New Deal that launched increasing government involvement in business through burgeoning regulations; the Russian Wheat Deal of the early 1970s; the disastrous Atkins Diet; the health-and-wellness trend now dominating consumer foods; and the growing importance of foodservice as commercial baking’s customer. Of course, the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic also have shaped business conditions for Milling & Baking News readers.

The first two decades of The Southwestern Miller were marked by huge changes in both flour milling and baking, and it so happened that Kansas City was central to many of these.

During this period, Sam Sosland scored a major scoop on his competitors by writing a weekly series profiling the leaders of America’s grain, milling and baking companies — a “Who’s Who” of industry leaders.

The years of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, starting in 1929, brought drought and economic problems to grain farmers and government controls over markets. They also prompted creation of the Daily News Card and, later, the “Sosland Says” commentary published daily by Reuters into the late 1980s.
In 1938, the foundational Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed, establishing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And a year later, in 1939, the Federal Standards of Identity were created.

In the run up to World War II, the magazine reported how hostilities in Europe affected US wheat futures and that wheat exports were restricted by submarine warfare and blockade.

America entered the war, and patriotism entered advertising messages. The Southwestern Miller published its first cover printed in more than black with red with the issue of July 4, 1942, that showed the US flag inked in red and blue.

Slicing bread in San Angelo, Texas.

Post-war and the cold war

The military draft initiated in 1940 found widespread malnutrition among potential soldiers. Thus, in 1943, supported by the nation’s nutritionists, War Food Order No. 1 mandated enrichment of white bread and flour with B vitamins and iron as a temporary measure. Extending enrichment into peacetime ignited a bitterly fought battle, but the MNF and the American Bakers Association (ABA) supported this effort. And so did The Southwestern Miller.

The war era saw further erosion in home baking. Commercial bread accounted for 85% of consumption by the end of World War II; it was just 50% the year the magazine was founded.

Home from military service, Morton Sosland resumed his studies at Harvard College. He joined the magazine staff in 1947. In 1952, Neil Sosland, who had recently graduated from Harvard and was working for the family company, was drafted to serve in the army during the Korean War. He returned to the magazine two years later.

As post-war tensions rose between former allies: the United States and the USSR, The Southwestern Miller reported that flour from Kansas was included in the Berlin Airlift to overcome the Soviet blockade of the German capital. This was also the era that saw big changes in flour handling technology, specifically the use of pneumatic conveying and the shift to bulk shipping of flour and other ingredients.

But mostly, the late 1940s and 1950s were an era of unprecedented prosperity. Milling did well during the war and afterward as long as the Marshall Plan was in force. Flour production peaked in 1945 at 227 million cwts and was only 203 million three years later. As flour production tumbled, there was a cascade of flour mill closings.

During this time, bakers developed national consumer brands.

In the 1950s, the grain exchanges at Chicago and Minneapolis moved trading to a five-day week from six, and Kansas City soon followed. Nevertheless, the magazine kept to its six-day work schedule, finalizing its market and commerce columns over the weekend.

The continuous dough making process was introduced in a presentation to MNF and dually reported by The Southwestern Miller. This method would come to dominate bakery production for the next quarter century.

Corporate consolidation and more productive technology led the number of milling facilities to drop to 803, according to 1954 Census of Manufacturers issued by the Bureau of the Census. This was a loss of 35% from the 1,243 locations reported in 1947. Census figures, issued every five years, provided a statistical picture of American manufacturing, detailing the number of locations, employees, purchased supplies, packaging used, goods produced and more. Analysis of the Census data about the bread, cake, cookie and cracker industries became Mr. Davidson’s special reporting beat and a mainstay of the magazine.

Cold War conditions intensified during the 1960s, and in 1963, The Southwestern Miller reported how US longshoreman and maritime unions took it on themselves to limit Soviet Union acquisitions of US wheat to half of their requests.

Relations between the United States and the USSR continued to deteriorate during the 1960s, leading to the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the Cuban missile crisis. When the Russian wheat crop failed in 1965, the Soviets bought wheat from Canada and Australia but not the United States, developments reported in depth by The Southwestern Miller. America’s entry into the Vietnamese War also roiled grain markets, according to the magazine’s reporters, and drove up bread prices.

This decade found consumers growing concerned about possible negative effects of food additives. The Delany Clause, a part of the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, forbade the FDA from approving the presence in foods of any substance found to cause cancer in animals or humans. Its zero-risk requirement threatened many effective mill fumigants and pesticides. Highly unpopular among processed food professionals, the clause wasn’t revoked until 40 years later when a new law removed the zero-risk provisions.

In 1968, Bakers Weekly, founded in 1904 and the major baking magazine of the day, folded, and Sosland Publishing saw the chance to shift the focus of The Southwestern Miller more to wholesale baking. Two years earlier, Bakery Production & Marketing was founded. It became a formidable competitor and was once ranked as the highest revenue-generating magazine in the business-to-business field.

In 1969, the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health took place, setting the stage for formal dietary guidelines for Americans. That year, the FDA reviewed its Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list of food additives. During the next year, the Clean Air Act went into effect, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. Bakers learned from the magazine how the anti-pollution law would affect bakery ovens by regulating ethanol emissions.

‘Our new name’

Dave Sosland died in 1968 and Sanders Sosland in 1970. Management of the magazine and the company passed to the second generation, Morton and Neil Sosland. Morton deepened the magazine’s international coverage and reputation, and Neil brought expertise to market reporting and enhanced coverage of the science of milling and baking.

Sam Sosland, the founding managing editor, gradually took a lesser role and withdrew from magazine work after 1970.

In 1972 on its 50th anniversary, The Southwestern Miller became Milling & Baking News. It was a change that was a long time in coming, but editors framed it as “a change in name only, albeit with considerable enthusiasm.”

The new name, according to the editorial announcement, was intended to help the magazine move beyond regional aspects. Hard red winter wheat flour, they said, needed national champions. Ownership of flour mills had long since crossed regional lines, making the Southwestern designation obsolete.

“(T)he individual, the company and also the industry that does not prepare, yes initiate change, is in effect moving backward,” observed Morton Sosland, the unnamed editorial writer.

The editorial continued: “To all intents and purposes, though, the adoption of Milling & Baking News is the capstone of many changes that gradually have been made in this magazine over the past five years or so, all with the intent of better serving breadstuffs managers. These editorial changes – new departments and features, expansion of headquarters staff and adding correspondents and new graphics inside and on the cover – all have aimed at making the ‘News’ in the name a meaningful description. … The magazine is basic reading for breadstuffs managers. The new name is suited for the exciting time ahead.”

He cited the potential “in such areas as nutrition, new products, new marketing techniques and scientific advances that communication takes on new meaning.”
Thus did the Sosland editors affirm a flexible approach to covering the changing issues that the industry faces.

“For the first 70 years, government meddling in agricultural production was as important a topic as any covered by our publication,” Josh Sosland explained. “With the decoupling of grain production and farm supports in the 1990s, this issue receded in importance. To be sure, government regulatory involvement remains a major concern, but not as much with regard to the price of agricultural commodities.

“The point is that we have a staff ready and able to adapt the news to the most pressing needs of our readership. Today that’s tight labor markets and shifting attitudes toward nutrition. We’ll be ready for whatever comes tomorrow.”
The company used the 50th anniversary to expand Milling & Baking News’ coverage, said Neil Sosland.

“That’s when the story became one of audience expansion,” he said. “And we wanted to expand to areas in which we could work. We experimented with various concepts during my father’s and uncles’ time. Now, it was up to Morton’s and my generation to execute on these ideas.”

Neil Sosland advised, further “The most important thing that continues to determine our future is our ability to change. You can’t settle into any one structure. That’s what journalism today faces.”

On the 50th anniversary of the magazine, Sam Sosland recalled, “Our aim was to be a practical publication, moved by realism and idealism.”

Morton I. Sosland discussing the Russian Wheat Deal on the 1974 television program “Firing Line” hosted by William F. Buckley Jr.

Serving timely data needs

The story behind the Daily News Card, established in the 1930s and for a long time the company’s only publication other than its weekly magazine, reveals not only the publisher’s commitment to timely information but also its standing among readers as a knowledgeable interpreter of that data.

During the early 1930s, the manager of a small Kansas mill told Sanders Sosland how he lost $2 per ton on a carload of bran because his information on market prices was several days old. He asked the editor to send him a postcard each day marked with the price change.

Requests for similar reports grew as other millers learned of the agreement, and the company started printing millfeed prices on postcards mailed every market day. Soon, The Southwestern Miller editors converted the card to a condensed guidance report on wheat, flour and export markets, as well as millfeed.

In that era, Sosland Publishing could count on its postcards arriving in the next morning’s mail, but by the late 1980s, the deteriorating reliability of US Postal Service deliveries prompted Mark Sabo to change the format from a postcard into a fax, noted Josh Sosland.

“MarketFAX was its first step in its journey into electronic delivery,” he said.
In 1990, the Daily News Card fax migrated to the internet, moving into the electronic age. It was revised to fit letter-sized sheets, carrying even more relevant market information, renamed MarketFAX and transmitted via phone lines during the evening for morning readership. Its commentary often set the pace for that day’s markets.

Starting in 1998, MarketFAX was offered as MarketFocus, an email publication transmitted nearly instantaneously over the internet and archived electronically at Sosland’s website, Today, nearly all recipients have converted to email delivery.

A shocking scoop

Indeed, things were about to heat up. On July 17, 1972, Morton Sosland took an overseas phone call from a London source who allowed himself to be named only as “John Smith.” He said he was only trying to confirm details about the pending purchase of US grains by the USSR; however, the caller revealed an amazing story. The Soviet Union’s grain importing agency, Exportkleb, was buying an astonishing 5 million tonnes each of US wheat, corn and barley in a secretive deal.

The Soviet Union, usually an international power in grain production and exporting, wanted to conceal the past two years of massive crop failures in the country’s collective farming sector. So, it negotiated the deal to hide the amounts and types of grains it planned to purchase and the names of those US exporters selling the grains.
Nearly a month of phone calls ensued before the editors decided to report the news on Aug. 4, 1972.

Secret until that moment, the Milling & Baking News report revealed what came to be known as the Russian Wheat Deal. It shook the American grain market, fueled extraordinary food inflation and rattled the US and global economy. The small one-title, Midwestern publishing company scooped even the big newspapers and financial journals based at New York, Washington and London.

The Russian Wheat Deal report raised the stature of Milling & Baking News throughout the business-to-business publishing world. It also confirmed Morton Sosland’s place among the elite in geopolitical and financial circles.

Although Morton Sosland never learned the real identity of “Mr. Smith,” he speculated his informant was likely Russian, but London’s Financial Times claimed he was an East German. The source always placed his calls to Kansas City from different European locations, and editors were never able to pry a return phone number out of him. After his Aug. 10 phone call, Morton Sosland never heard from him again.

“Morton’s reporting on the Russian deal really put us on the map,” Neil Sosland said. “A year or two later, the Wall Street Journal article about this matter brought our company into the international spotlight.”

Starting new ventures

As earth shaking as the Russian reporting was, the milling and baking industries continued to reshuffle themselves throughout the 1970s, indeed into the 21st century.

This was also the time that Mr. Sabo and Morton Sosland began to move the company beyond its single-title status. Baking Equipment Quarterly ran as a supplement to Milling & Baking News from 1979 through 1983 before becoming a freestanding magazine, later renamed Baking & Snack.

The Baking Directory & Buyer’s Guide debuted in 1974. Similar directories covering milling, international grain, retail baking, meat and poultry would follow in coming years. In 2022, a pet food buyer’s guide will be added.

The 1970s saw the introduction of more rigorous food labeling as well as open dating codes. UPC codes also were added to food labels, and all were covered by Milling & Baking News.

Charles S. Sosland, Morton Sosland’s son and the first member of the family’s third generation to join the business, came in on the Milling & Baking News sales side in 1978. He would move to London in 1982 on a one-year assignment to lead sales efforts for World Grain.

The American Institute of Baking relocated in 1978 from Chicago to Manhattan, Kan. The federal government issued its first set of dietary guidelines, which were required to be renewed and re-written every five years. It was also the year that the limits on Soviet grain buying were lifted and the year that hard white winter wheat was introduced to Kansas, the leading grower of hard red winter wheat. Plus, Sosland Publishing adopted computerized writing, editing and typesetting technologies.

Growth in topics covered

The 1980s opened with another new technology: handheld computing for bakery route accounting. The era also saw the interest caught up in a peaking trend toward corporate diversification with widely varied merger activity, including the purchase by the brewer (and yeast manufacturer) Anheuser Busch of baker Campbell Taggart. Standard Brands stalked and captured Nabisco, setting off a chain of industry-shaking events later documented by the best-selling book, “Barbarians at the Gate.” The start of the decade witnessed Seaboard Allied, one of the largest companies in the milling category, divesting its domestic mills to Cargill and pursuing the poultry, pork and global milling businesses. Ralston Purina bought Continental Baking from ITT. Ward Baking and American Bakeries, two of America’s oldest baking companies, exited the business by selling their last remaining plants.

The Kansas City Board of Trade celebrated its 125th anniversary, while the Chicago Board of Trade opened the world’s largest commodity trading floor and expanded futures trading opportunities.

It was at this time that Milling & Baking News substantially increased its feature coverage, distinct from news and markets.

“Today, there are more features in the magazine than there were 75 years ago, although you could see the change coming in articles such as industry personality features written in the 1960s and 1970s,” Josh Sosland said. He joined the family company in 1983 as an associate editor.

“This trend grew during Gordon Davidson’s era,” he explained, “and it helped us compete with other industry magazines that were more feature-centric. Readers want more than news; they also want ‘big picture’ perspective and analysis.”

Another massive round of bakery plant ownership changes occurred in the 1990s. To avoid anti-trust complications, the major bakers shuffled around bakery plants like a deck of cards.

In 1998, Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo acquired Mrs Baird’s Bakeries, laying the foundation for today’s Bimbo Bakeries USA. At the time of this first major US purchase, the Mexican company raised plenty of eyebrows among American bakers when it announced that it intended to become the largest North American baking business. A decade later, it accomplished that goal.

Nutrition, safety to the fore

The nutritional qualities of food began to draw heightened attention from consumers. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA jointly issued dietary guidelines and, in 1982, introduced the Food Guide Pyramid. Per capita flour consumption, which began in the early 1970s to reverse a decades long decline, experienced an acceleration in growth, and a number of milling companies added large, new, heavily automated facilities. Likewise, new bakeries were created to serve larger distribution areas, and formulating for extended shelf life (ESL) bread and cake products became the watchword that defined the 1990s.

Folic acid — known to nutrition scientists since the 1960s to greatly reduce birth defects, — was added to enrichment mandates, and birth defects dropped as predicted. In 1998, the FDA mandated that enriched grain products be fortified with folic acid. Folic acid was first allowed on Nutrition Facts food labels in 1990. It became mandatory for food labeling in 2020.

Also incorporated into food plant practices were Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) protocols for food safety. These conventions would be further enhanced when the FDA adopted enhanced food safety procedures under 2011’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

The infamous Tylenol poisoning incident upped risk levels for consumer products, and the 1983 Federal Anti-Tampering Act changed the way all food and drug companies packaged their goods.

Another significant change happened in 1990 when the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) went into effect. The FDA could now regulate the wording of the many nutrition and health claims being put on foods, claims that were previously not allowed. It was a grain-based-foods company, Kellogg Co., that opened this Pandora’s Box. Starting in 1984, the company printed on labels for its All Bran breakfast cereals a claim implying that eating high-fiber foods such as bran cereals could reduce the incidence of several cancers. Health claims were changed again in 1997 by the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act.

In 1997, Sosland Publishing became the first in its field to establish a presence on the internet at Jointly with its sister publication Baking & Snack, Milling & Baking News has populated the website with news ever since.

As the 20th century came to an end, so did a much-diminished Bakery Production & Marketing magazine, a competitor to Milling & Baking News and Baking & Snack. It ceased publication in 1999. Sosland acquired what few assets remained, and only the BP&M Redbook, an industry directory, and the Bakery Newsletter, now properties of Sosland’s bake platform, are still published today.

Entering a new century

The much-feared Y2K Millennium Bug computer meltdown passed mostly without incident; however, Milling & Baking News and Sosland used the scare to update the company’s computer servers and network.

But just a year later, the very real 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington did heighten food safety concerns. These fears prompted passage of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Milling & Baking News and Sosland helped sponsor the International Symposium on Agroterrorism organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and held at Kansas City in March 2004.

Coverage of ingredients became especially prominent in the late 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. The focus was on ingredients that could provide health benefits in readers’ products. Milling & Baking News developed its Food Ingredient Solutions section to cover these matters in depth. Managed and chiefly written by Jeff Gelski, senior editor, it has become a regular feature for nearly 20 years and has changed the complexion of the magazine.

“Soy was used more frequently because of a health claim that it was granted late in the 20th century,” Mr. Gelski said. “Industry raced to find alternatives for partially hydrogenated oil, which FDA eventually banned because it contained trans fat. Natural sweeteners such as stevia came into vogue as consumers and industry sought ways to reduce sugar consumption. Milling companies such as Ardent Mills and Bay State Milling increased their offerings of whole grain flour and ancient grain flour.”

In the meantime, American consumers powered a diversification of product development. Shoppers sought out foods labeled as organic, non-GMO and “free from.” The term organic was officially defined in late 2000 by USDA National Organic Program regulations. NLEA-like labeling rules for the dietary supplement industry were spelled out by the FDA under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.

A decade later, the 2004 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) identified the eight major allergens whose presence in foods must be specifically labeled. The list was updated in 2021 with the addition of sesame.

“In the early to mid-2000s, I regularly attended the Whole Grains Council meetings when they were first getting started,” said Eric Schroeder, managing editor, Milling & Baking News and World Grain, and executive editor, Food Business News. “I remember the Whole Grain Stamp in its infancy, and today, I see it on all kinds of products.”

The new century brought additional changes to the staff of Milling & Baking News. Meyer Sosland, the son of Charles Sosland, joined as the magazine’s associate editor and millfeed market writer. Two years later, he was named managing editor of World Grain, and today, he is chief operations officer for the company.

Milling & Baking News reported the death and resurrection of Hostess Brands that occurred between 2012 and 2013. It also noted the 2019 conversion of the American Institute of Baking from a bricks-and-mortar teaching facility, research group and inspection service into a virtual business. The school held its last resident baking course in 2018 but, as AIB International, remains a comprehensive provider of food safety inspection services and educational seminars.

Merger and acquisition continued apace among bakers. The latest news involved 2021’s divestiture of all baking operations of Weston, Canada’s largest food retailer.
The magazine’s pages also described the potential for genetic enhancement of wheat. This matter has been long discussed and extensively researched but not yet implemented. While the industrial ingredient market reflects consumer uneasiness about bioengineered crops, bakers are open to hybrid wheat developed by more conventional breeding methods.

Climate change and sustainability have become serious editorial topics for Milling & Baking News. Coverage of ingredients has taken note of the impact on baking of the 2021 Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act (FASTER).

The most immediate food-related problem reported by Milling & Baking News/Food Business News since March 2020 has been, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chain issues affect their readers, and foodservice bakers, in particular, have encountered especially difficult circumstances. Meanwhile, the magazine publisher labored hard to cope with social distancing and developing appropriate remote work procedures.

As the food industry moves into the third decade of this century, focus now falls on sustainable benefits, too.

“Organic ingredients continue to be in demand,” Mr. Gelski said. “General Mills, in a nod to regenerative agriculture and improving soil health, has invested in Kernza (the grain of a robust perennial wheatgrass developed and trademarked by The Land Institute). Multinational food companies and ingredient suppliers annually publish corporate responsibility reports that provide details on oil and palm sourcing, educating and improving the lives of farmers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The protein category continues to evolve through plant-based meat alternatives and cellular meat.”

A new twin publication

In 2005, Sosland Publishing introduced Food Business News and altered the publishing schedule of Milling & Baking News to run every other week alternating with the new food magazine. Initially, the two publications shared the same editorial staff. Over time, the publications have developed distinct and gradually diverging styles. As Food Business News has grown, it has added editorial team members dedicated completely to the publication.

“The whole reason to pivot to a Milling & Baking News/Food Business News combination was that we looked at the people who were attending our Purchasing Seminar and who were paying subscribers to Milling & Baking News,” Mr. Gude said. “We were getting attention from companies outside of milling and baking. And baking and milling companies were expanding beyond their original fields. Some new readers and attendees were protein-based; others were beverage companies. We also had foodservice companies and their suppliers. They were telling us by their attendance and their subscriptions that they wanted more news than they were receiving from other sources.

“Sharing the editorial staff between the two magazines was and continues to be a seamless process. We built our company on putting out a weekly magazine. The two titles compatibly feed each other.”

Over the years, the company had commissioned a number of studies, some done by Kansas City’s own Midwest Research Institute, to assess current and future positioning of Milling & Baking News and the company. Most recommended an expansion of the reader audience to encompass more of the general food industry. Over time, Mr. Sabo also urged conversion of the one-magazine company into a multi-title publisher.

Some of the diversification of the company was premised on the idea that industry consolidation ultimately would not support a magazine dedicated to grain, milling and baking. While those worries were not groundless, the value of the information provided by Milling & Baking News, the addition of the Purchasing Seminar and the distinct character of the flour-based foods industry has sustained Milling & Baking News longer than would have been suggested by many metrics when the research was done.

“And of course,” Mr. Gude said, “we are a full-function publisher, with design, circulation, advertising, marketing and business departments under one roof that collectively support all of our publications. Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has dispersed these business functions under many remote roofs.”

Role as industry voice

During Milling & Baking News’ ascent into industry leadership, Morton Sosland provided its voice, writing most of its editorial opinion columns. These were typically unsigned, a legacy from his father and uncles. He occasionally shared this assignment with Mr. Davidson, the magazine’s managing editor. The two men were so aligned in thought and industry insight that most readers could never tell their columns apart.

Even as Morton Sosland turned over Milling & Baking News’ editorship reins to his nephew Josh Sosland, he continued to contribute editorial columns well into his 90s until shortly before his passing in 2019.

Morton Sosland has been recognized for his industry advocacy and community service many times, almost too many to count; the walls of his private conference room were lined with award statuettes, certificates, plaques and photos of industry and government notables. Among those accomplishments was his induction into the 2006 inaugural class of the Baking Hall of Fame of the American Society of Baking.

Neil Sosland received the first-ever Myron D. “Mike” Baustian Memorial Award from the Milling and Baking Division of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (now the Cereal Grains Association) and was also honored by the International Association of Operative Millers and, for his lifelong service to milling, made an honorary member of MNF — a special honor since he was never assigned to cover MNF meetings.

Shortly after he retired, Mr. Sabo also was honored by the North American Millers’ Association to recognize his contribution over the years to the association and the milling industry. On Mr. Sabo’s death in 2020, Robb MacKie, chief executive officer of the ABA, called attention to the longtime Sosland executive’s unsung role in revitalizing the flagging International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE).

“His insights and perspectives brought the disparate industry stakeholders together to put IBIE on a path for growth and success,” Mr. MacKie said.

“Mark got us more deeply involved with IBIE and helped establish Sosland as its primary media provider,” Josh Sosland said. “That event has grown and become vitally important to the industry, and it has become important for us, too.”

Striving to stay up to date

“We knew what our role was in our business universe,” Neil Sosland said. “We aspired to be a class above, and people knew that about us. But we also had to keep improving our work.”

This also means improving the tools used by the magazine reporters, editors and production staff.

“It used to be that on the Monday ahead of our Tuesday publication date, we made up the magazine’s pages,” Neil Sosland explained. “First, we placed the advertising pages; then we slotted in the editorial content. Originally this was done by a secretary, and then it devolved onto the youngest editor — me at the time — for paste-up. And did we ever use a lot of paste.

“My father and uncles asked me to be part of our computerization initiative, which began around 1969 or 1970. I and our business manager Bob Neve took a computer course in California to get ready for it. I made sure I programmed that first computer so it could do the paste-up.”

The magazine’s first redesign took place in 1969 when it changed its cover and adopted a new type face. When The Southwestern Miller became Milling & Baking News in 1972, editors added a band of color to the front cover. They alternated every other week between green and gold. Further design tweaks eliminated the green and gold in 1992 and changed the logo to red. In 2021, the magazine underwent a major redesign, effective with the May 4 edition.

“Anyone familiar with Milling & Baking News and its predecessor The Southwestern Miller knows the magazines were heavy on copy, maybe a little light on design,” Mr. Schroeder said. “With the redesign in 2021, we wanted to bring the publication up to date without losing the feel of the journal aspect created 100 years ago.

“Understanding that the print publications now work hand-in-hand with the digital products we offer, I think the redesign has been a home run. Our designer, Christina Sullivan, created some fantastic, engaging covers, and the work that has breathed more life into our markets coverage has been well received.”

Market reporting importance

Like his father and uncles, Morton Sosland insisted on excellence in market reporting and didn’t hesitate to advise editors when they may have fallen short, said Josh Sosland.

“This provided great motivation to market editors to always strive to ‘measure up,’” he said.

From its very first issue, March 7, 1922, The Southwestern Miller reported both the news flour millers had to know and the market trends they had to follow in order to manage their businesses successfully.

Ingredient market reporting in Sosland publications expanded over the years to include additional commodities as the milling industry itself evolved to feature new product offerings. But the commitment to providing up-to-date market information and analysis critical to managing flour milling and other food manufacturing businesses remains.

“Market reporting is a matter of knowing names and placing phone calls, of learning how to talk to people about their business while still keeping it confidential,” Neil Sosland explained. “We also went out on the trading floor to get an immediate perspective.”

Describing the work of market reporters, Jay Sjerven said, “Neil Sosland expanded markets coverage significantly into areas such as sugar and sweeteners, bakery shortening, milk products, cocoa and egg products, ensuring these markets were reported on as accurately and professionally as those related more directly to the wheat and flour markets.”

Neil Sosland explained, “Covering sweeteners was new to the magazine at the time I joined it. We established that column as coequal with flour milling. This allowed us to get into new publications and new coverage areas. It opened the doors to move into the fields that we now cover.”

It’s the analysis that made the Sosland reputation for the integrity of its content, he said. Its importance continues despite the ease of communications afforded by the internet and its myriad sources.

“To compete, a market reporter must constantly improve the quality and depth of his analysis,” Neil Sosland said. “And if there’s a better way to do it, we should pursue that to be able to succeed. I’m continually learning.”

Market reporting by Milling & Baking News, and also Food Business News, has benefited from a straight line of mentors. Sanders Sosland set the bar early and high.

He tutored his nephews, Morton and Neil Sosland, as they learned and then took over news and market coverage in the 1960s and 1970s. They were aided in this by Mel Sjerven.

“Morton, Neil and Mel ensured that high standards in market reporting were maintained as the third generation of Sosland Publishing market editors came to the fore,” Jay Sjerven said. “Their efforts largely were responsible for competitor publications to The Southwestern Miller and Milling & Baking News falling by the wayside.”

Josh Sosland added, “This same straight line of mentorship may be seen in the oversight of news. Sam Sosland was a meticulous editor who was followed by Morton and then Gordon Davidson, as managing editor. The latter role has been ably (and busily) filled for nearly 20 years by Eric Schroeder.”

Josh Sosland, who covered markets for nearly a dozen years, also helped bridge the generations of market writers, working first with Neil Sosland and then with Ron Sterk, now Milling & Baking News senior editor, markets, when he joined the company.

Mr. Sterk explained the market reporting process: “The basic reporting hasn’t changed — the key still is calling trusted sources and gathering prices and supply-and-demand information. The three had such a stellar reputation in the industry that it possibly was easier to find people who wanted to talk.”

About 10 years ago, Mr. Sterk took the initiative to propose the launch of The Sosland Sweetener Report, published on Wednesdays. It built on the sweetener coverage initiated years earlier by Neil Sosland. The weekly report provides prices, data, analysis and industry news for the US, Mexican and global cash sugar and corn sweetener markets, New York sugar futures. In addition, a brief daily update is provided.

“(The Sosland Sweetener Report) has deepened our reputation as a leading source of sweetener market information,” Josh Sosland said.

The major change in the company’s market reporting is the source of information and data.

“While key market prices and certainly quotes and analysis of the market come from our usual sources, much of what we now gather comes from the internet, especially the USDA data, but also company websites,” Mr. Sterk said. “That makes it easier sometimes but doesn’t replace an actual conversation.”

These communication changes actually make it easier for market reporters to gauge the value of their work to readers.

“They can just email you either compliments or complaints,” Mr. Sterk said. “But we also talk to subscribers and ask what they need to know and try to fill that void or enhance on the product if we’re already producing it. (The internet has) lots of metrics to illustrate how many readers are clicking on our reports, how much time they are spending on them, etc., but that’s really just the beginning of good customer feedback.”

Milling & Baking News editors don’t overlook these challenges and strive for immediacy via daily postings on the website.

“It would be disingenuous to say the internet hasn’t affected Milling & Baking News’ reporting at all, but in fact, the focus on reporting day by day rather than week by week has increased the content produced for the grain-based foods industry,” Josh Sosland said.

“We now tend to have far more content than we are able to publish in each issue of Milling & Baking News and need to think carefully about which articles are most important to include in our print edition,” he added.

The numbers and commentary are available each week to subscribers of Milling & Baking News/Food Business News.

“Numerous outlets have offered commodity prices on a more timely basis than Milling & Baking News, for decades,” Josh Sosland observed. “Our value proposition is not necessarily aimed at those who trade each and every day but is instead directed toward ingredient buyers who buy week by week, month by month in a manner aimed at managing risk and understanding overarching trends as they make purchasing plans for the month, quarter, half year or year. In addition, our coverage of millfeed and cash wheat markets remains the most in-depth of any available anywhere.”

Relationship to readers

Reader feedback always has been important to the magazine. Mr. Gude explained, “We do reader study after reader study, and we have learned that people who are Milling & Baking News readers have a real affinity for the magazine. Fully 75% of readers tell us they read every issue. That’s three out of four readers of an every-other-week magazine who read every issue, and 95% of respondents describe themselves as ‘regular’ readers.”

Ingredient buyers and suppliers, as well as leaders of grain, milling and baking companies, continue to form the core of the Milling & Baking News readership, said Josh Sosland.“Additionally, over the last quarter century, we have added research and development professionals and editorial coverage around ingredient technology to broaden the scope of our editorial in a way that gives our core readers a broad understanding of ingredient formulation trends and also meets the need of ingredient advertisers.”

Into the second century

The rise of digital publishing poses a conundrum to any print publication but especially to those in the business-to-business field. Milling & Baking News is no different.

“I very strongly feel the importance of becoming digitally literate,” Neil Sosland said. “In journalism today, very few publications remain in print. Many have gone completely digital. As a publishing company, we will continue to go further into internet applications. We must be one of the electronic leaders in business-to-business publishing, and we must respond to those challenges.

“As journalists, you have to keep learning new things, and that means getting savvy about technology. It’s like the change from doing long division, as Sanders did when he worked on the market pages, to using a slide rule like I did at first, to going to adding machines and then to computers. You have to always be looking for a better way to do your job.”

Milling & Baking News is at a crossroads today, said Josh Sosland.

“The industries we cover have vastly changed,” he said. “Today, the milling and baking industries businesses have largely consolidated and are highly concentrated. Family businesses were the norm in 1970. Today, they are the exception, both in milling and baking, as well as publishing.

“The grain industry was enjoying its heyday in 1970. Few standalone grain companies from that era continue to exist. Most have shut down, been acquired or turned into much more diversified companies.

“In 1970, white bread remained the dominant end use for flour, together with basic commodity cookies and cracker. White bread has been in decline ever since, perhaps with the exception of the start of COVID-19, and the end-use outlets for flour are far more diverse than was the case 50 years ago.

“As consumer tastes have become more sophisticated, with a $5 loaf of organic bread the fastest growing brand over the past five years, it’s clear that more change is coming. It’s very exciting for our readers and for us.”

Looking ahead, he said, “Milling & Baking News will need to adapt to the changing marketplace, both because of continued consolidation in the grain-based foods industry and as a paid subscription publication in a business-to-business environment in which such publications really no longer exists.”

Jay Sjerven summed up: “Each successive generation of Sosland Publishing editors must continue to provide this essential information to the food industry.”

(Part 2) 100 years of international food aid: Continuing the fight against hunger

By Jay Sjerven

December 28, 2021

100 years of international food aid:
Continuing the fight against hunger

The United States was engaged in what was at the time and for many years to come the world’s largest humanitarian mission ever, sending US food to Russia to save millions from starvation.

World Food Programme

The need for US international food aid assistance is increasing, perhaps to historic proportions. The number of those living in extreme hunger has been mounting rapidly as the COVID-19 pandemic extends its grip on populations and economies. Even before the pandemic, millions of people suffered from hunger and malnutrition because of conflict, drought and natural disasters. Support in the United States for lending a helping hand to those abroad in need of food has been longstanding and broad based. In Washington, champions of international food aid have come from both sides of the aisle as the mission has been in accord with both the generosity of the American people and the national interest.

The United States government has depended greatly on private voluntary organizations to deliver in-kind food assistance abroad, and since 1961 has had a great partner in the United Nations World Food Programme, which has become the world’s largest humanitarian organization.

For this second of two installments on international food assistance, Milling & Baking News spoke with legendary champions of US international food aid and the executive director of the World Food Programme, and received a briefing from the US Agency for International Development on current US food aid policy.


Food aid champions come from ‘both sides of the aisle’

Historically, the US commitment to providing food assistance to the hungry of other nations has enjoyed support from Republican and Democratic leaders alike. Its champions have come from both sides of the aisle, and its future hinges on continued strong bipartisan support.

The late Senator Robert Dole of Kansas, former Senate Majority Leader and Republican candidate for President of the United States, was a towering champion for US international food assistance, especially in-kind food assistance, during his 35 years in the House of Representatives and the US Senate and for the rest of his life.

“I’ve always believed we have an obligation to help others in need — in this case, to help others who struggle to put food on the table,” Mr. Dole told Milling & Baking News in an October 2021 interview. “By feeding the hungry around the world, we make a real difference in the lives of others. Sharing our bounty has not only been good for US farmers, it’s also been excellent foreign policy.  I believe there’s a link between a country’s food security and its stability as a nation.”

Asked why international food assistance enjoyed broad bipartisan support in Congress, Mr. Dole said, “I’d like to think that people from both parties equally recognize the humanitarian aspect of international food aid.  When you think about it, it really isn’t a political issue, and it shouldn’t be a political issue.  It’s a basic need of any human – to be fed.”

Mr. Dole left enduring contributions to the success and structure of US international food and agriculture assistance.

He and Senator George McGovern were responsible for the establishment of the renowned McGovern-Dole US International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. Under this initiative, school attendance in select developing countries has been encouraged by ensuring children receive at least one nutritious meal at school each day. One standout achievement attributed to the program has been poor families increasingly sending their girl children as well as their boys to school. The program also has included innovative features such as rewarding students for school attendance by sending them home occasionally with a highly prized tin of cooking oil for use by their families.

“George and I created the program when we both met with President Clinton to discuss the issue,” Mr. Dole said. “It was clearly important to George and to me, and President Clinton also recognized the need. George and I both came from farming states, so we shared a mutual respect for farmers and a recognition that they should be instrumental in the ongoing fight against worldwide hunger. As for the future, I am confident that the momentum of the program will continue for years to come.”

Most of the food served in the school feeding program comprises US in-kind donations. Largely on the success and strength of this program, Mr. Dole and Mr. McGovern received the World Food Prize in 2008.

Mr. Dole emphasized the importance of donating US-grown food in its assistance to other nations.

“I’ve always believed that in-kind food donations are of paramount importance,” Mr. Dole said. “There is something special about sending our home-grown food to nations where there is need.  It benefits the American farmer, and it benefits our relations with other nations.”

Asked what the future may hold for US international food assistance, Mr. Dole said, “We cannot feed the entire world – there is simply not enough food available here to feed all who are hungry worldwide — but we can help needy nations throughout the world increase yields and feed themselves.  By sharing not only our food but also our science and expertise, we help foreign nations feed themselves and further close the gap between those who are fed and those who remain hungry.”

Sharing US farming expertise and technology was especially important to Mr. Dole, who in 1966 drafted legislation that called for a “Bread and Butter Corps,” which later became the Farmer-to-Farmer program, which continues to this day.

Sitting in on the White House meeting when Mr. Dole and Mr. McGovern made their pitch for an international school feeding program to President Clinton was then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who oversaw the US Department of Agriculture’s food assistance operations including commodity purchases for donation abroad. Mr. Glickman said it was no mistake that Mr. Dole and Mr. McGovern jointly promoted the initiative as there has been a bipartisan foundation to all US international food aid programs.

Mr. Glickman told Milling & Baking News he was confident food assistance will remain an essential component in US foreign policy.

“Congress and administrations of both parties have supported food and nutrition assistance for many years, both bilaterally and through the UN World Food Programme,” Mr. Glickman said.

“The United States is the largest donor to the WFP, and I expect that support to continue,” Mr. Glickman said.

“The humanitarian challenges to food security, affected by climate change, weather variability and political conflicts, are likely to continue, and thus I would expect US food assistance will continue to be a high priority as part of our US foreign assistance programs,” Mr. Glickman asserted. “I should note that in these days of a highly toxic political environment in Washington, global food and nutrition assistance continues to enjoy strong bipartisan support.”

Mr. Glickman currently is a senior counselor and chair of the International Advisory Board at APCO Worldwide and is a longtime board member and now a lead director of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group). He is a distinguished fellow in Global Food and Agriculture at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an adjunct professor at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston. Mr. Glickman long has been engaged in promoting bipartisanship in the US Congress, retiring as vice president of the Aspen Institute and executive director of its Congressional Program in early 2021 after 10 years. Before serving as secretary of agriculture from March 1995 until January 2001, he represented the 4th Congressional District of Kansas in the US House of Representatives for 18 years.

“Traditionally our food aid programs provided direct commodity assistance to needy people,” Mr. Glickman said. “But while I expect that commodity assistance to continue, I believe that more assistance will be in the form of cash assistance, where the recipients can either purchase the food locally, or source it locally.  Local conditions in those countries need this added flexibility, and this is a trend I expect to continue, so there will be a combination of cash and commodity assistance in the future. The key is flexibility, as there is no one size fits all in how food assistance is distributed. The US government has worked closely with the NGO (non-governmental organization) community, the WFP, and where possible, foreign governments in distribution efforts, particularly in high conflict regions.”

Mr. Glickman added, “I also expect there will be much more attention to issues of nutrition security, diet, health and disease, which have not been the top priority of our commodity assistance programs in the past. I can’t overstate the importance of nutrition and health, in addition to supplying US-grown commodities. This is a major domestic and global trend, and we need to be doing much more research into the types of commodities and food products that help promote good health and prevent disease.”

Senators Bob Dole, left, and George McGovern at US Senate hearings on the School Feeding Program in 2000.

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US-WFP partnership critical as world hunger is on the rise again

The need for international food assistance has grown dramatically in recent years and particularly since the disruption to global economies wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, told Milling & Baking News. Mr. Beasley is an American political leader, educator,and former governor of the State of South Carolina. He was appointed executive director of the WFP in 2017.

The WFP since its establishment in 1961 has been the most important partner to the United States in providing international food assistance, both in-kind and market based. In fiscal year 2020, 73% of US in-kind food assistance shipped abroad was distributed by the WFP, according to the US Agency for International Development.

“WFP fed 115 million people last year, more than in any other year in our history, and there are 42 million people in 43 countries at the ‘emergency’ phase of food insecurity in 2021 — just one step away from famine,” Mr. Beasley said.

“In this COVID period alone, we have seen the population of acutely hungry people double in the countries where we work, from about 135 million to 270 million,” Mr. Beasley said. “The chief causes are: man-made conflict (of the sort we see in places like Yemen and Syria); more frequent extreme weather like droughts and flooding; and the severe economic fallout from COVID, which has left so many people without money to purchase food. WFP has strong programs in each of these areas, one reason we received the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize for our work. For instance, WFP is helping 19 countries to forecast extreme climate events and trigger preventive action before vulnerable families are hit by disasters. By providing cash transfers ahead of floods, droughts and storms, we support people in harm’s way to evacuate assets and livestock, reinforce homesteads, and buy food, seed and emergency items so they are better prepared to deal with a food crisis.”

Commenting on the WFP-US partnership, Mr. Beasley explained, “The United States is currently the largest donor to WFP — and has been for our entire 60-year history. Last year, the United States alone contributed $3.7 billion of WFP’s $8.5 billion budget. That’s a strong vote of confidence by the United States, one that crosses political lines — and one that I don’t take for granted. We operate in close partnership with US aid authorities everywhere we work. Through various agencies like USAID and the USDA, the United States supports virtually every aspect of WFP’s work — our emergency operations, our livelihoods programs, our school meals work (WFP fed 15 million schoolchildren last year) and our management of the UN Humanitarian Air Service, which enables aid workers to reach remote areas not served by commercial airlines.”

Mr. Beasley was asked how methods of delivery of food aid have changed in recent years, and how WFP determines which method to use in different circumstances.

“WFP empowers its country teams to determine which specific mechanisms will be most effective in the local context,” Mr. Beasley said. “Different tools are better suited to different circumstances, based on factors ranging from availability of food in local markets to reliability of mobile phone services. As digital technology has opened up whole new ways of working, WFP’s methods of delivery have become more sophisticated, enabling us to reach hungry people more quickly and more efficiently. Even five years ago, who would have guessed WFP would be using drones to capture images of storm-ravaged areas unreachable by vehicles, so we can establish where the greatest needs are immediately after a disaster? Or send electronic vouchers by cell phone so families can buy food? We constantly embrace cutting-edge technologies in our drive to feed hungry people.”

Mr. Beasely replied “Absolutely!,” when asked whether US in-kind food donations will remain an important tool in the WFP toolbox in coming years.

“Although WFP increasingly provides direct assistance with cash (we have become the largest cash provider in the humanitarian community, supplying $2.1 billion of cash aid in 67 countries in 2020), in-kind donations from the United States and other countries will always remain an important part of the resources at our disposal,” he said. “We use different forms of assistance in different settings, based on local conditions, and in some places, using in-kind donations makes greater sense.”

Mr. Beasley said providing international food aid likely will become even more challenging in coming years.

“On the one hand, global needs are increasing due to the huge damage done by COVID, placing even greater pressure on WFP and on our partners to use precious resources as wisely as possible,” Mr. Beasley said. “On the other hand, the budgets of donor countries face their own pressures due to growing national needs from the pandemic and its economic fallout, so some countries are reducing aid. That is forcing WFP to reduce rations — something we never want to do. But I would urge our donors not to go down this path. If we act now, we can avoid the global hunger crisis spinning out of control, but if we wait for it to hit full force before we act, the costs will be immense. It’s all hands on deck. We need to act today.” 

David Beasley with Rohingya refugees.

USAID: Robust food assistance across the globe

US international food assistance programs in the future will include continued donations of US-grown food alongside more recently employed methods of providing assistance to those in urgent need, including purchasing food commodities grown or raised in regions closer to a hunger outbreak, and even distributing cash or vouchers to refugees or other displaced families so they may purchase food readily available in local markets but unaffordable to them, a spokesperson for the US Agency for International Development told Milling & Baking News.

“The United States is the world’s leading donor of humanitarian assistance, providing more than $10.5 billion in fiscal year 2020,” the spokesperson said. “More than two-thirds of this funding— more than $7 billion—came from the US Agency for International Development, including nearly $4.8 billion in market-based and in-kind food assistance. The United States is committed to continuing to provide robust food assistance around the world.”

The spokesperson pointed out that in 2020, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) merged with the agency’s Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance. The resulting body, the USAID Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, “aims to elevate US humanitarian assistance to better respond to the magnitude, complexity, and protracted nature of today’s emergencies.”

The spokesperson said Congress appropriates funding for both the PL 480 Title II account, which provides for in-kind donations of US-grown food, and the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account, which primarily provides for market-based food assistance.

“These two streams of funding allow USAID to draw both from in-kind US- grown commodities as well as the full suite of market-based food assistance modalities depending on the specific context on the ground,” the spokesperson said.

Asked what US international food assistance may look like in the future, the spokesperson said, “USAID is focused on providing the right assistance at the right time. Just as US food assistance has continued to evolve over our (USAID) 60-plus year history, it will continue to adapt based on the crises at hand. In-kind food assistance is, and will continue to be, a critical tool where markets are not functioning and food is scarce. We will also continue to draw from a full suite of market-based modalities, including local, regional, and international procurement, food vouchers, and cash transfers for food, where the situation on the ground makes those tools more efficient and effective ways to reach people in need.”

The spokesperson said USAID considers a variety of factors when determining the most effective means of providing food assistance, including the specific needs on the ground, what access it has to affected populations, market conditions in the affected area, and costs of transporting food assistance.

“In most cases, flexibility and complementarity are the keys to effectiveness,” the spokesperson said. “A combination of humanitarian response options is often the most effective way to meet people’s emergency needs. For example, Yemen receives significant in-kind food assistance because the country imports roughly 90% of its food supply, but an effective humanitarian response in Yemen requires not only in-kind food assistance but also market-based assistance through food vouchers.”

The product mix in US international food assistance has changed over the past several years with a greater emphasis on nutrition and not simply on providing essential calories.

“USAID provides food that best meets nutritional needs and local dietary preferences,” the spokesperson said. “These commodities may vary year to year based on where we are programming. Over the past decade, USAID has also been working to improve the nutritional value of our food products by using nutrient-fortified foods, such as Super Cereal Plus and Corn Soy Blend Plus, as well as ready-to-use foods (such as nutrient-fortified peanut butter pastes) that help address hunger while preventing and treating malnutrition.

“For example, in South Sudan, USAID is providing Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic Food (RUTF) through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to treat the most severely malnourished children, as well as fortified blended flours and vegetable oil and Ready-to-Use-Supplementary Food (RUSF) through additional partners to prevent malnourished children from deteriorating to a more severe state.”

There are currently 25 food commodities and products procured for use through Title II programs.

In order to ensure US-grown and processed foods reach aid recipients as expeditiously as possible, US farm and food industries for the past several years have encouraged pre-positioning of US products in warehouses closer to areas likely to experience food scarcity.

“Pre-positioning food makes USAID more agile and flexible to respond to crises as they emerge,” the USAID spokesperson said. “USAID stockpiles food in key locations around the world to significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to reach people in need. By getting a head-start on the lengthy procurement and delivery process, pre-positioned food arrives on average 76 days earlier than food procured normally. At any given moment, USAID has up to 50,000 tonnes of in-kind food aid stored in four warehouses around the world, ready to respond to crises as they arise. The composition and levels of the inventories are tailored based on anticipated needs and forecast demand.

“In fiscal year 2020, more than 170,000 tonnes of in-kind commodities were distributed to people in need from USAID’s prepositioned stocks,” the spokesperson continued. “Commonly pre-positioned food items include yellow split peas, vegetable oil, Corm-Soy Blend Plus, lentils, and cereals.

“USAID also works with the World Food Programme to maintain its network of warehouses throughout the world,” the spokesman added. “By extending the network, USAID and WFP can reach even more people in need of emergency food assistance.”


(Part 1) 100 years of international food aid: Generosity in the national interest

By Jay Sjerven

December 14, 2021

100 years of international food aid:
generosity in the national interest

The United States was engaged in what was at the time and for many years to come the world’s largest humanitarian mission ever, sending US food to Russia to save millions from starvation.

“America to the starving people of Russia.” An American Relief Administration poster distributed in Russia during the 1921-22 US famine relief mission to that country.

When The Southwestern Miller, the predecessor to Milling & Baking News, was launched as a weekly news magazine for the flour milling and grain industries in March 1922, the United States was engaged in what was at the time and for many years to come the world’s largest humanitarian mission ever, sending US food to Russa to save millions from starvation. It was the first but far from the last such US humanitarian food aid mission chronicled in the pages of Sosland Publishing Co.’s premier weekly news publication.

Drought and famine broke out in the Volga and Ural regions of the Soviet Union in 1921 and raged across broad expanses of the countryside through 1922. An estimated 5 million people perished from starvation. The Bolshevik government, having just prevailed in a devastating civil war, did not have the wherewithal to contain the catastrophe. In fact, during the civil war, the government dispatched Red Guard units from hungry cities to forcibly requisition farmers’ grain stores, even seed grain needed to sow the next year’s crops.

The Bolsheviks, having recently turned back the military intervention of US, British and other allied armed forces that sought to bolster anti-revolutionary armies arrayed against the fledgling Soviet government, were loath to accept outside assistance. But conditions were dire and threatening to become even worse, and the Bolsheviks relented.

The American Relief Administration, formed to distribute US food assistance to Europe during and in the immediate aftermath of World War I, led what became an international famine relief effort in Russia. The ARA was headed by Herbert Hoover, who directed President Woodrow Wilson’s Food Administration during World War I and became Secretary of Commerce in 1921 in the Harding Administration. Mr. Hoover later was elected the 31st president of the United States.

Initially, the ARA envisioned feeding 1 million Russian schoolchildren a day in famine areas, but it soon was feeding 10.5 million people a day at more than 21,000 local kitchens. It was a herculean enterprise with young American volunteers, most former doughboys, dispatched to Russia to organize food procurement, shipping, transportation and distribution, and even administer railroads in famine areas. In support of the effort, Congress appropriated $20 million to be used for the purchase and transport of US corn.

The Southwestern Miller, in its second issue, reported the US Grain Corp. (a food purchasing arm of the US government) was tendering for 5,000 tons of corn grits for shipment to Russia. This tender was one of several for corn grits, which was the mainstay of the US relief mission.

US wheat also was shipped to the Soviet Union during the famine but mostly for seeding.

The US-led effort in turning back the Russian famine of 1921-22 illustrated the principal underlying features of subsequent US international food assistance initiatives.

First and foremost, it highlighted the generosity of the American people in sharing their bounty with those who temporarily and through no fault of their own were unable to feed themselves.

Second, there was a measure of self-interest. In most years, American farmers produce more grain and other foodstuffs than can be consumed domestically. Commercial exports always have provided vital outlets for US agricultural products. But in years of particular bounty or narrowed export outlets, surpluses may weigh heavily on the market and depress farm prices. In the months before the Soviet famine-relief effort, corn had been selling in the United States as low as 11¢ a bu. Once purchases for Soviet famine relief began, the corn price advanced quickly to 60¢ a bu as the surplus was drawn down.

International food assistance in many years has provided an outlet for US surpluses that otherwise may have gone to waste or at the least would have weighed heavily on farm prices and incomes. This was especially true in years when the federal government impounded huge stocks of grain and other farm products it acquired through farm income support programs.

While US farm and trade policies have been reformed and have become much more market oriented in the past several years, and the US government no longer is a large, let alone the largest holder of US grain stocks, US purchases of grain and other foodstuffs on the open market for donation abroad still benefit the US farm and food communities while sustaining the lives of those in crisis abroad.

And third, there was in the Sovietfamine relief effort, as there has been in all subsequent such initiatives, strategic considerations. Mr. Hoover was stridently anti-communist. But he believed that extending assistance directly to the people of the Soviet Union would provide not only an example of American generosity but also of American efficiency and know-how, in other words, the superiority of the American system. He never lost hope that the Soviet experiment would fail and that the Bolsheviks would be removed from power.

As Mr. Hoover might have said, the United States wants and needs friends. It wants stable and increasingly prosperous trading partners. Often extending a helping hand when assistance is needed over time may make for a more prosperous and secure world in which the United States may thrive.

WWII: Lend-Lease, and Feed

The Second World War in Europe broke out in September 1939 with the Nazi German invasion of Poland. The United Kingdom and France, having failed in efforts to prevent the German seizures of Austria and Czechoslovakia and concerned the Nazi’s expansionism knew no bounds, had warned Germany should it invade Poland, they would declare war. Germany invaded, and what tenuous peace existed across much of Europe since the end of the First World War was finished.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, concerned the United States would not be able to keep war at bay forever, began to beef up US defenses in 1940 and sought ways to extend a helping hand to the United Kingdom, which stood alone against the Nazis after the surrender of France and other European nations.

The United States greatly expanded aid to the United Kingdom through the Lend-Lease Program, which was established by an act of Congress in March 1941. Congress initially appropriated $7 billion, with more to come later, to assist the United Kingdom and its allies in procuring the wherewithal to resist aggression. Allies to receive Lend-Lease assistance soon were to include the Soviet Union, which in June 1941 was invaded by Nazi Germany. The Lend-Lease program expanded to include assistance to yet more allied nations after the United States entered the war after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

While most Lend-Lease aid was in weapons and equipment, President Roosevelt on April 16, 1941, authorized Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard to begin shipping food aid under the program as well. The Southwestern Miller in its April 22, 1941, issue carried an article headlined “American Food May Win World War II.” The article reported on a radio broadcast by Secretary Wickard who asserted, “Food raised by American farmers may yet win the war and decide the peace, and in such a way that this thing cannot happen again … England needs American food. This food will help her hold out against the Nazi. On the other hand, the lack of food is likely to defeat Germany. In the struggle between freedom and the goosestep, food may decide the issue.”

Initial food shipments to the United Kingdom under Lend-Lease included evaporated milk, cheese and eggs. But the same April 22 issue of The Southwestern Miller reported flour purchases for shipment to the United Kingdom were expected imminently.

Between April 16 and Dec. 25, 1941, arrivals of US Lend-Lease foodstuffs in the United Kingdom passed the 1-million-ton mark. A steady flow of American food and even vitamins to the United Kingdom continued through the end of the war in 1945.

Secretary of State Edward Stettinius in his wartime book titled “Lend-Lease, Weapon for Victory,” noted the important role Lend-Lease played in delivering US food to help feed Soviet Red Army soldiers fighting the Germans. When the Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, was overrun by the Nazis, the Soviet Union lost a large part of its supply of hogs, potatoes and grain. In December 1941, officials of the US Department of Agriculture began to meet weekly with Soviet Union representatives on their country’s food needs, which were considerable and increasingly urgent.

“In the first part of 1942, shipments were limited almost entirely to wheat, flour and sugar,” Mr. Stettinius said. “Looking ahead, however, the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission had requested for future large amounts of canned meats and of fats and oils also. The Russians were short on food in general, but especially short on the proteins and fats necessary to maintain their fighting strength. I think it can be said that without the food sent from the United States, it would have been necessary either to reduce considerably the Red Army’s rations or to cut the ration of war workers well below the danger line in order to maintain the Red Army at top fighting strength.”

Food to Secure the Peace

45 and over the Japanese Empire in September 1945 ended the fighting but not the misery and hunger in the United Kingdom and in those countries in Europe and Asia that were the war’s killing fields.

Immediate post-war food assistance to Europe was provided by the United States through the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency. The UNRRA was primarily a US initiative but also drew on donations from other food-surplus countries. During its brief tenure, the UNRRA, which was discontinued in 1947, provided more than 25 million tonnes of food assistance, more than three times the post-World War I relief.

Such large-scale relief was essential as crop production in Europe was slow to recover from the ravages of the war years, and the bitterly cold winter of 1946-47 severely damaged winter crops planted for harvest in 1947.

With another harsh European winter in prospect, President Harry S. Truman in a radio and television address to the nation on Oct. 5, 1947, said, “The situation in Europe is grim and forbidding as winter approaches. Despite the vigorous efforts of the European people, their crops have suffered so badly from droughts, floods and cold that the tragedy of hunger is a stark reality. The nations of Western Europe will soon be scraping the bottom of the food barrel. They cannot get through the coming winter and spring without help — generous help — from the United States and from other countries that have food to spare.

“Their most urgent need is food. If the peace should be lost because we failed to share our food with hungry people, there would be no more tragic example in all history of a peace needlessly lost.”

The president’s remarks were reported in full in the Oct. 7, 1947, issue of The Southwestern Miller. Under a headline reading “Bread Saving; Meatless, Eggless, Days,” the editors outlined the president’s plan for food conservation in the United States to help meet emergency needs in Europe.

“The president called for meatless Tuesdays and asked that no poultry or eggs be served on Thursdays along with recommendations to farmers to reduce feeding of grain to livestock,” the editors said. “In the case of bread, the president asked every consumer to ‘save a slice every day’ and also asked that public eating places serve bread and also butter only on request.”

With Europe still on the ropes, the European Recovery Program, known as the Marshall Plan, was approved by Congress in the spring of 1948. The Marshall Plan had as a principal goal stimulating the recovery of European economies and thereby curbing the influence of the Soviet Union and national communist parties. Food played a significant role in Marshall Plan assistance. About $3 billion of the $13 billion extended by the Marshall Plan was used by European nations to purchase US food, animal feed and fertilizer.

The Southwestern Miller

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PL 480, Food for Peace

s the need for emergency food aid to Europe began to abate in the early 1950s and military demand waned with the end of the Korean War, surplus stocks of wheat and other farm commodities in the United States began to grow rapidly. Alarmed lawmakers sought means to dispose of stocks being accumulated by the government through its farm support programs and to develop new foreign markets for US farm products.

On June 30, 1954, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, PL 480, which created a permanent structure for US international food assistance and the Food for Peace programs that continue to this day.

As reported in The Southwestern Miller in its July 6 issue of that year, the legislation provided $700 million for the sale of private or government-held surpluses to countries in need, which were allowed to pay for the commodities with their own currencies, not dollars. Also, ATDAA permitted the president to use up to $300 million in Commodity Credit Corp. (US Department of Agriculture) surpluses for gifts to “friendly peoples in meeting famine or other urgent relief requirements” over three years.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed ATDAA into law on July 10, 1954.
There initially were three primary titles in PL 480 through which food assistance was delivered abroad. Title I provided for concessional sales of food, for many years mostly wheat and flour, to foreign governments to be paid for in their own currencies over time and on terms more favorable than those offered commercial buyers. While after 1971, payment for Title I food was required in dollars, recipient governments still could pay the United States over several years, in instances up to 40 years, at low interest rates.

Title II provided for primarily humanitarian donations of US-sourced food commodities to arrest or avert famine. Title III provided for bartering US food for materials of value to the United States. Title III barter transactions ended in 1973.

For the first several years of PL 480, shipments of wheat sold on concessional terms under Title I dwarfed those of emergency wheat donations under Title II. In 1964, the tenth year of PL 480, 439 million bus of wheat were shipped under Title I, while wheat donations under Title II totaled around 19 million bus. Total PL 480 wheat shipments accounted for more than half of all US wheat exported in that year.

Food for Peace programs evolved over the years. Under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, there was less emphasis on surplus disposal and more on addressing famine and the nutritional needs of recipients of US food aid. US foreign aid itself became an increasingly important instrument in a structured foreign policy. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 established the US Agency for International Development, which would become the principal agency administering Food for Peace Title II donations in collaboration with the USDA.

Reforms in US and world trade and farm policies during recent decades have seen food donations under Title II become the principal means by which the United States provides in-kind food aid to other nations while concessional sales under Title I, the bane of other food-exporting nations that alleged it displaced their commercial sales, declined into insignificance.

Until recent years, US international food aid was provided exclusively as in-kind aid with commodities sourced in the United States and shipped to recipient countries. But in the last 10 years, US food aid increasingly has included market-based assistance, such as food purchased outside the United States and closer to a hunger outbreak, known as local and regional purchases (LRP), cash transfers and vouchers. This change was initiated under the George W. Bush administration and accelerated under President Barack Obama.

In 2010, USAID, drawing on authorities from the Foreign Assistance Act, began to provide market-based food aid in disaster situations under what was named the Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). Congress permanently authorized the EFSP in the Global Food Security Act of 2016, and the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2017 provided funding for the program through fiscal year 2023.

US use of market-based food assistance in recent years has expanded to the point where EFSP now is the largest among US international food aid programs in terms of total congressional outlays and food assistance provided.

The recent evolution of US international food aid programs toward increased use of market-based modalities initially was opposed but then largely accepted by US non-governmental organizations that have been partners in distributing PL 480 Title II food since the inception of Food for Peace.

Farm, food and grain organizations have lined up on both sides of the in-kind versus market-based modalities controversy. Resistance to the recent changes has been tempered in large part because of the diminishing portion of total US agricultural production and exports accounted for by today’s food aid programs. It was estimated that foreign food aid recently has accounted for less than 1% of total US agricultural output, although for some crops such as pulse crops and sorghum, foreign food aid looms larger in importance. In the case of wheat, US Wheat Associates estimated in recent years wheat purchased under PL 480 Title II for donation abroad has averaged about 800,000 tonnes a year, or about 3% of all US wheat exports. That compared with up to 15 million tonnes of wheat purchased for international food aid in the mid-1960s.

US flour exports under PL 480 in recent years have been miniscule compared with volumes shipped in the first decades of Food for Peace programs. The North American Millers’ Association indicated most milled foods provided as food aid today include fortified and blended grain-based products such as corn-soy blends, some of which have been developed by NAMA members in cooperation with USAID and the World Food Programme to meet the nutritional needs of aid recipients.

NAMA and other agriculture and food industry organizations also have been champions of pre-positioning US food products at strategically vital locations near areas where hunger outbreaks have been chronic to ensure US in-kind food aid reaches those in need more quickly and efficiently than when it is shipped directly from the United States.

World Food Programme and US AID

A look to the future

The direction of US international food aid will be decided in the next several months as Congress prepares to draft a new farm bill and decides whether or at what level to reauthorize the Emergency Food Security Program beyond fiscal year 2023.

The USDA and USAID are partners in providing US international in-kind food aid.

The USDA’s Commodity Credit Corp. procures all US agricultural commodities to be donated abroad, including under programs administered by the USDA itself, such as the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.
USAID administers the distribution of commodities procured by the CCC for PL 480 Title II donations in cooperation with non-governmental and international organizations.

The statutory authority for the Food for Peace Act and its programs is contained in the farm bill (the current farm bill being the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which expires in fiscal year 2023). Farm bills must be renewed with modifications at intervals, usually every five years, by Congress. The House and Senate agriculture committees have jurisdiction over the farm bill and the Food for Peace programs. The agriculture subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees propose the funding for the programs.

The House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations Committees have jurisdiction over programs and agencies with statutory authority derived from the Foreign Assistance Act, including USAID and the Emergency Food Security Program. The State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees propose funding for these programs.
With world hunger on the advance once again because of the pandemic, much is a stake as Congress weighs the future of US international food aid.

World Food Programme and US AID

A diet for digestion issues gains traction globally

By Jeff Gelski

October 19, 2021

A diet for digestion issues
gains traction globally

Studies show effectiveness of low FODMAP diet, but grain-based foods restrictions pose challenges.

©sonyakamoz – STOCK.ADOBE.COM

Created at the onset of the 21st century, the low FODMAP diet focuses heavily on improving digestion, a trending topic, which gives the diet a bright outlook as the century unfolds. In contrast to fad diets, which often gain popularity in the complete absence of supportive scientific research, published studies about the low FODMAP diet continue to show its effectiveness. It helps with issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which affects one in seven consumers globally, according to Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

“They are typically people that are just miserable when they eat certain foods,” said Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Chicago-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “The goal of this diet is really to alleviate different digestive symptoms that happen when people eat certain foods.”

A drawback comes in the diet’s complexity. Grain-based foods are allowed in the diet but in a limited role. Many suppliers are developing FODMAP-diet friendly grain-based ingredients.

The low FODMAP diet limits foods that have been shown to irritate the gut and cause irritable bowel symptoms like bloating, gas, constipation and diarrhea. FODMAP stands for fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. The diet affects numerous food and beverage categories, including baked foods. Fructans, which are in wheat, barley, rye and inulin, are oligosaccharides.

The diet’s origins

Researchers at Monash University created the low FODMAP diet in 2005. Peter Gibson, PhD, a professor in the Department of Gastroenterology, recruited Jane Muir, PhD, a dietitian-scientist who had worked with resistant starch and non-starch polysaccharides, and Susan Shepherd, PhD, a dietitian known for her work with celiac disease as well as fructose malabsorption and gut symptoms.

“We had all played with various things, like reducing fructose and manipulating fiber,” Dr. Gibson said. “A few of us came together probably at the right time. Jane and I had both been in the fiber area for a long time.”

Before the low FODMAP diet, treating IBS involved focusing on one subject, like fructose, fiber or lactose, Dr. Gibson said.

“What the term FODMAP did was to bring all these things that did similar things in the gut together,” he said.

The researchers at Monash University developed the diet over a year or two, Dr. Gibson said.

“The principals were there, but it was all based on very poor data,” Dr. Gibson said. “The big turning point was when we started to get some science into it.”

Published research on the diet has picked up over the past few years.
A study published in 2016 in the World Journal of Gastroenterology found 86% of 180 patients with IBS or inflammatory bowel disease reported either partial (54%) or full (32%) efficacy. The greatest improvements came in bloating at 82% and abdominal pain at 71%. Median follow-up time was 16 months. The study involved researchers from North Zealand University Hospital in Denmark.

The following year another study was published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. Researchers from the University of Otaga in New Zealand divided participants into two groups. The first group, with 23 participants, began a low FODMAP diet. After three months they had significantly lower IBS symptoms than the 27 participants in the second group, which then began following the low FODMAP diet while the second group began reintroducing foods into their diet. Reduced IBS symptoms were sustained at six months in group one and replicated by group two.

Much has been learned about the diet since then, said Michael Schultz, PhD, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the University of Otago.

“The low FODMAP diet has been a breakthrough in the treatment for irritable bowel syndrome,” Dr. Schultz said. “Recent research is assessing the effect of the low FODMAP diet for other indications such as inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulosis, etc. Further research into the mechanisms is also on the way.

“Research into the cause of diseases was initially based on genome-wide association studies, but when this proved to be of little daily clinical consequence, the focus shifted to microbiome research. Over the last few years, a close link between the intestinal microflora and a variety of diseases has been observed. This is not just limited to gastrointestinal diseases but encompasses cardiovascular, neurological, metabolical diseases as well.”

In 2019, a study published in the International Journal of Food Microbiology and involving Monash University researchers examined gluten sensitivity and FODMAPs. While about 1% of the population has celiac disease and must avoid gluten, another 10% to 15% report a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms that respond well to a gluten-free diet, which is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), according to the study. Monash University researchers identified other factors in gluten-containing foods that may be responsible for those diagnosed as having non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

“We have evidence that certain poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates (called FODMAPs) present in many gluten-containing food products induce symptoms of abdominal pain, bloating, wind and altered bowel habit (associated with irritable bowel syndrome, IBS),” the researchers said. “Our research has shown that FODMAPs, and not gluten, triggered symptoms in NCGS. Going forward, there are great opportunities for the food industry to develop low FODMAP products for this group, as choice of grain variety and type of food processing technique can greatly reduce the FODMAP levels in foods. “

The validity of non-celiac gluten sensitivity was questioned in a cross-sectional survey of 147 patients with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Seventy-five percent reported improved gastrointestinal symptoms on a gluten-free diet, but researchers observed celiac disease had not been excluded adequately in 62% of the patients, 24% experienced uncontrolled symptoms despite gluten restriction and 27% said they were not following a gluten-free diet.

“These findings typify a common scenario in clinical practice, whereby patients present with a self-diagnosis of gluten intolerance without adequate exclusion of celiac disease or other gastrointestinal disorders and, in many cases, experience ongoing symptoms despite strict adherence to a gluten-free diet,” the researchers said.

Researchers now understand the mechanisms by which FODMAPs induce gut symptoms, and Monash University has built a large database describing the FODMAP composition of food, said Jane Varney, senior research dietitian in the Department of Gastroenterology at Monash University. She added future research will focus on the efficacy of a low FODMAP diet in people with other conditions such as endometriosis (a painful disorder in which tissue grows outside the uterus), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and functional gastrointestinal symptoms; efficacy of a low FODMAP diet compared to other effective treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy and anti-depressants; implications of changes in microbial abundances on colonic health; the extent to which changes in microbial populations can be rectified using dietary liberalization; the efficacy of a low FODMAP diet in children with IBS; the role of new FODMAPs , including xylose and arabinose, and sucrose and dextrins, which in some people with IBS may trigger symptoms; and the efficacy of other modes of delivery of FODMAP education with examples being telehealth and group education sessions.

Reintroducing foods

The diet involves three steps. First, those with IBS and other digestive problems follow a strict low FODMAP diet, taking out all the elements that might cause problems. If symptoms improve, they move to a second step, which involves adding back in elements one by one.

“It’s meant to narrow down the exact food that may be triggering your problems,” said Pamela A. Cureton, a clinical and registered dietitian and a member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s
scientific advisory board.

In the third step, the diet becomes personalized. Work continues with a dietitian.

“It’s really a learning diet,” Dr. Muir said. “That’s how we like to describe it. People are learning which particular FODMAPs trigger their symptoms because everybody is different as to which FODMAP diet will be proper for them.”

Dr. Gibson added, “The beauty of this diet is we don’t get rid of any food groups or nutrients. It’s a matter of choosing the right foods and the food groups.”

Reintroduction of foods into the diet was addressed in the study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2016. Eighty-four percent of patients lived on a modified low FODMAP diet where some foods rich in FODMAPs were reintroduced, and 16% followed the diet without deviations. Wheat, dairy products and onions were the foods most often not reintroduced.

A study published in 2017 in Neurogastroenterology & Motility and involving researchers from King’s College in London also addressed reintroduction of foods. Among 103 participants who originally had irritable bowel syndrome, 84 stayed on a low FODMAP diet long term while 19 returned to a habitual diet. The study identified low FODMAP food products appropriate for a low FODMAP diet, with gluten-free bread being an example, and high FODMAP food products. Total FODMAP intake was significantly lower for those on the FODMAP diet (20.6 grams per day, plus-or-minus 14.9 grams) when compared with those who returned to the habitual diet (29.5 grams per day, plus-or-minus 22.9 grams). Participants who stayed on the low FODMAP diet consumed significantly less onion and garlic.

Breaking the findings down into categories, participants who stayed on the low FODMAP diet consumed a higher intake of low FODMAP bread, 27.04 more grams per day when compared to participants who returned to a habitual diet. Those on the low FODMAP diet ate 26.7 less grams per day of high FODMAP pasta when compared to those who returned to a habitual diet.

Those on the low FODMAP diet may consume some grain-based foods, but fermented foods should be avoided.

“When you have fermentable foods, they are very good for human health, but for people with irritable bowel syndrome, if something is fermentable, it means that it’s going to cause those digestive symptoms like bloating and gas that can be very painful for people,” said Julie Stefanski, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Chicago-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sourdough bread may work in a low FODMAP diet because a long proofing process breaks down fructans, Dr. Gibson said, adding spelt also is lower in fructans.

In the study published in the International
Journal of Food Microbiology, Monash University researchers found sourdough cultures in breadmaking reduce the quantities of FODMAPs, mostly fructans, which results in bread products that are well tolerated by consumers with IBS. Greater interaction between biomedical scientists and food scientists could improve the understanding about the clinical problems consumers face and lead to the development of food products that are better tolerated by this group, according to the study.

Other low FODMAP bread and cereal products include corn flakes, oats, quinoa flakes, quinoa/rice/corn pasta and rice cakes, according to Monash University.

Gluten-free foods potentially may work in low FODMAP diets as well since fructans and gluten often are in the same types of food. Ms. Stefanski said the keto diet differs from the low FODMAP diet in that the keto diet looks at the amount of carbohydrates but not the type of carbohydrates. Low FODMAP involves the types of carbohydrates consumed.

Researchers are working on ways to reduce fructan levels in food through the use of enzymes, said Kiarra Martindale, a dietitian and the business development and marketing manager for Melbourne-based FODMAP Friendly, which offers a certification trademark for products that qualify as low FODMAP. If the research is successful, “that’s going to be a game-changer in the FODMAP space,” she said.

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Overcoming complexity

Consumers may have trouble succeeding on the low FODMAP diet if they try it on their own.

“The problem is, it’s difficult to follow,” Ms. Cureton said. “It’s difficult to understand. You really do need the help of a trained, knowledgeable dietitian.”


Ms. Stefanski said, “It’s rather a confusing mix of foods. Many people try to do this on their own without a dietitian, or somebody to guide them. You really need someone to guide you through this.”


Dr. Gibson was involved in a study published in 2019 in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology that stated the optimal delivery of the diet requires a combination of education in physiology, food composition and identification, reading of food labels, and a process of restriction of foods and then reintroduction. The study looked at simplifying the diet by examining a FODMAP-gentle approach in which a dietitian targets attention to the changes to each consumer’s individual intake and makes allowances for dietary flexibility, such as allowing more legumes for vegetarians. The study also addressed “fear-mongering” of the diet, or discouraging consumers from following the diet because of its difficulty. Practitioners, including gastroenterologists and dietitians, who do not advocate for the low FODMAP diet likely will discourage adherence, according to the study.


Researchers from Monash University continue to educate gastroenterologists, clinicians and dietitians.


“Before the pandemic, we would be in the US every year,” Dr. Muir said.
The food industry is learning about the diet as well.


“It has a very specific purpose, much like gluten-free,” Ms. Cureton said. “Gluten-free was designed for people with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. FODMAP is well-studied in its use for people with irritable bowel syndrome to control abdominal pain cramping, diarrhea, constipation. It has a very specific use that it works very well in.”

Manufacturers need to be careful about promoting their products as FODMAP-friendly. 

How to gain low fodmap certification

Two low FODMAP certification systems have been established in Australia and are available for food and beverage companies globally. Monash University in Melbourne, where the low FODMAP diet was created, offers one system, and the FODMAP Friendly Certification Program, based in Victoria, offers the other.

Susan Shepherd, PhD, a dietitian known for her work with celiac disease as well as fructose malabsorption and gut symptoms, was involved in the creation of the diet at Monash University. She then was instrumental in creating the FODMAP Friendly Certification Program. Tim Mottin, now director of FODMAP Friendly, more than a decade ago worked in digestive health clinics in Australia. His patients were frustrated by various digestive issues, like fructose malabsorption and lactose intolerance.

“We had all these patients saying ‘What do I do? I’ve got all these issues. What do I do? How do I eat,’” Mr. Mottin said.
He began working with Dr. Shepherd since he referred many of his patients to her. It took several years to qualify for a certification trademark from the Australian government. The FODMAP Friendly logo began appearing on food products in 2013. To qualify, each product is tested to have minimal levels of fructose, fructans, galactooligosaccharides, sorbitol, mannitol and lactose.

“It’s been massive growth,” Mr. Mottin said. “It started off slow because it was all about the education of it and the awareness of it.”

The logo now appears on more than 700 products globally, including some from The Manildra Group, Gladesville, Australia. A flour mill in Australia uses a chemical-free extraction process to remove FODMAPs (fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) from Manildra’s Australian-grown wheat.
More than 300 products in the United States have qualified for the logo. FODMAP Friendly works with the University of Michigan and William Chey, PhD, a gastroenterologist at the university.


Five steps to certification
Food companies and ingredient suppliers may achieve low FODMAP certification from Monash University by following five steps.

First, they need to establish a new account at The second step involves completing and submitting an application form. The product will not be eligible if it contains garlic, onions or their derivatives, or added FODMAPS, including fructo-oligosaccharides, inulin, and the polyols maltitol, xylitol, erythritol, lactitol and isomalt.
Companies then send product samples for testing. Monash University researchers will work with companies to reformulate products and help them meet low FODMAP criteria. In the fourth step, approved products become eligible to join the Monash University Low FODMAP certification program, which includes a stamp of approval and trademarks on product packaging as well as promotional materials. The product also will be included in the Monash University FODMAP diet app. Step five concludes the process with launching of products with the certification. The app, unveiled in 2011, now is found in more than 130 countries.


Certified ingredient companies
Ingredient companies listed as having achieved low FODMAP certification include Ingredion, Inc., MGP Ingredients, Inc. and Roquette.

Ingredion, Westchester, Ill., offers Versafibe 1490 dietary fiber, which is derived from potatoes, and Novelose 3490 dietary fiber, which is derived from tapioca. Both ingredients are classified as resistant starch type 4 (RS4). The low FODMAP certified ingredients allow manufacturers to add fiber to food with little to no impact on texture, flavor and color, said Diana Nieto Velez, senior manager, businessdevelopment, starch-based texturizers for Ingredion.

Ingredion’s August 2019 study of more than 750 US consumers found that, when introduced to low FODMAP product lines, 68% said the products were good for digestive health and 53% said they would be very likely to purchase low FODMAP products (based on a top-two box score of “agree” and “strongly agree”).

MGP Ingredients, Atchison, Kan., has received low FODMAP certification for its Fibersym RW and FiberRite RW ingredients. The resistant wheat starch ingredients are sources of fiber used in processed foods such as bakery, pasta, snacks, breakfast cereal, and batter and coatings.

“With the increased awareness of low FODMAPs diet and the challenges in developing low FODMAP foods in cereal-based products, we see increasing demand for our products being used in low-FODMAPs formulations,” said Tanya Jeradechachai, vice president, ingredient solutions R&D.

MGP Ingredients promotes the low FODMAP certification through webinars, conferences, journal articles, marketing brochures, sales sheets, interviews and social media, she said. The highest interest in low FODMAP certification comes in the United States, Canada and Australia, she said.

Comet Bio, which has its US headquarters in Schaumburg, Ill., is seeking low FODMAP certification for Arrabina, an arabinoxylan prebiotic fiber upcycled from wheat crop leftovers. The fiber’s long-chain polysaccharide structure makes it better tolerated by the gut compared to oligosaccharides, said Hannah Ackermann, a registered dietitian and corporate communications manager for Comet Bio. The company’s recent clinical trial revealed consumers can eat more than 12 grams of Arrabina per day with no negative gut or bowel reaction.

The New Dawn of Hybrid Wheat

By L. Joshua Sosland

June 29, 2021

The New Dawn
of Hybrid Wheat

Stephen Baenziger

It was just over a 100 years that the sun slowly began rising on a new technology that was destined to transform US agriculture. While it would take a few decades for crop hybridization to take hold, the innovation ultimately would transform crop plantings and play a pivotal role in the ascendance of corn as “king” of US agriculture.

For the last 40 years, this transformation has relegated wheat further and further from its former central position in the farm economy. Thanks to the introduction of hybrid varieties, corn yields in the United States have risen steadily faster than wheat, helping corn encroach on land considered the heart of wheat country. Kansas, long described as the breadbasket of the United States, has harvested more corn than wheat, generally much more, nearly every year since 2003. Over the last three years, Kansas corn production has averaged 736 million bus, versus wheat production at 302 million. In 1950, by comparison, Kansas produced 178 million bus of wheat and 52 million bus of corn.

Now, wheat breeders see a new potential revolution on the horizon. Thanks to a humanitarian imperative, the need to feed a rapidly growing global population; a technological breakthrough — the sequencing of the wheat genome; and more cost-effective economic prospects, the potential for transformative wheat hybrid programs appears more promising than ever.

Plantings of hybrid wheat in the United States and much of the world are negligible currently, but change is looming on the horizon. In May, Syngenta AG announced plans to introduce four hybrid wheats in Europe under the X-Terra brand. A month later, BASF said its hybrid wheat would be sold under the Ideltis brand and would be available by mid-decade in Europe and the United States. Initial work has been focused on Germany, but the company in 2019 hosted the Technical Committee of the North American Millers’ Association, highlighting activities around the company’s hybrid wheat program and providing a tour of their North Carolina facilities.


Jan Gielen, a scientific officer with Zurich, Switzerland-based Syngenta Group, said the potential for hybrid wheat is considerable.

“Improving yields and crop safety by means of hybridization represent a huge challenge but has become within reach due to recent advances in breeding technologies, including the access to genomic tools and resources,” he said.
The company hopes the wheat will be shown to have strong baking qualities, suitable for the French baguette, he added.

“We submitted hybrids this year and need to wait for authorization — two years of official trialing to qualify for the recommended list for France,” Mr. Gielen, who is based in Toulouse, said.

Higher yield is a crucial benefit necessary for hybrid seeds to become successful in the marketplace, but the measure oversimplifies grower considerations,
Mr. Gielen said. With more extreme weather conditions emerging because of climate change, the benefits of hybrids will become more apparent.

“Yield is one thing,” he said. “Hybrids also are more robust. In harsh conditions, hybrids on average perform better than conventional varieties. With a smaller portfolio, you will be able to cover more environments.”

Mr. Gielen said Syngenta has been working to develop hybrid wheat seed since 2010, based on the expectation hybrids would yield more, would be more robust and more resilient to both environmental stresses and diseases. While the initial introduction is slated for Europe, Mr. Gielen said the US market would be ideal, longer term.
“In the United States, yields in general are not as high as in Europe,” he said. “In suboptimal growing areas I think hybrids will really differentiate from conventional. At the same time, you need growers who are comfortable with high tech. In Europe, growers are more receptive to applying fungicides and fertilizers to reach maximum yields.”

While first introduced in the 1910s, hybrid technology for corn did not gain momentum until the 1940s. The cumulative impact over the last eight decades has been extraordinary. Corn yields forecast by the US Department of Agriculture for the 2021 crop were 180 bus per acre, up 475% from 1940 yields of 76. Over this same period, wheat yields increased by 231%. More recently, since 1980, corn yields are up 97%, versus 51% for wheat. Over the last 40 years, corn acreage has increased 8% while wheat acreage has dropped 43%.

Why weren’t wheat hybrids developed and introduced alongside corn hybrids in the 1940s? Stephen Baenziger, PhD, professor emeritus of Agronomy at University of Nebraska — Lincoln, identified two principal reasons.

The first is that wheat already was benefiting from successful breeding programs in the 1930s and 1940s, and the need to increase yields through hybridization was not seen as compelling. By contrast, for the 30 years before 1940, corn yields were barely moving, Dr. Baenziger said.

Indeed, from the mid-1860s until a peak in 1915, wheat yields jumped 52%. Peak corn yields, reached in 1906, were up about 30%.

“Productivity in corn was basically flat, as opposed to wheat, which had continuous improvements because we had a very good dedicated breeding sector working on that,” he said.

Private companies tried introducing wheat hybrids from time to time over the past century, but because cross-bred wheat varieties were seeing modest yield increases, the hybrids that were introduced failed to adequately separate themselves from conventional cultivars, Dr. Baenziger said.

“The public program and private programs continued to improve their competitors, the cultivars,” he said. “And the hybrids never really could distance themselves from what was coming from behind.”

Dr. Baenziger cited a second key reason corn hybridization programs were more successful than wheat.

“Hybrids were relatively easy to make in corn,” he said. “It’s much more difficult in wheat.”

Produced by crossing two inbred lines, hybrid grain requires the sterilization of the male components of one of the two parents, to prevent the plant from self fertilizing. In the case of corn, sterilization is relatively easy. Once it appears in the field the tassel (male) is removed from the plant, and the ear (female) is fertilized by another plant. Multiple rows of detasseled female plants grow beside single or double rows of male plants, the pollen from which fertilize the female plants, which then generate the hybrid seed.

In the case of wheat, the male parts (stamen) are impossible to effectively and economically remove physically from the female plants.

There are other challenges, Dr. Baenziger said. Application of chemical hybridization agencies (CHA) has been used to sterilize the male parts of wheat plants, but this technique has a narrow window of application for pollination success. Corn produces more pollen than wheat, and wheat pollen does not survive as long.

Dr. Baenziger said many breeders and companies look at corn as the model system and are daunted. Attempts by several companies in the 1980s to develop hybrid wheat failed, in part because of a lack of cooperation with public breeding programs.
“Don’t forget it started 100 years ago,” he said. “A better example is hybrid canola, or hybrid rice. Much newer. In rice, for 30 years they worked and didn’t figure out a production system that was worthwhile. Finally, they figured out how to produce hybrids on a large scale. Hybrid wheat will take a sustained investment.”

He cited data showing that, in the most recent survey of the breeding sector, 900 breeders were working on corn, 870 private and 30 public.

“You have massive amounts of investment,” he said. “For wheat, the number was 120 breeders, half each public and private. If you have seven times the number of breeders, you would expect they would have higher productivity.”

Mr. Gielen said the use of chemical hybridization agents has helped breeders like Dr. Baenziger demonstrate the potential for hybrid wheat but cautioned that commercial success will rely on non-chemical solutions.

“The practice of hybridization by means CHA is not sustainable,” he said. “The CHA compounds are subject to strict regulations that limit the acreage on which they may be applied, and the sterilization procedure itself is very sensitive in terms of timing, environmental conditions, crop physiology, etcetera. For hybrid wheat to gain market share, an alternative hybridization system that can be deployed at large scale is essential.”

Companies like Syngenta are using non-chemical techniques in breeding programs to create male sterile plants. Called cytoplasmic male sterility (CMS), the technique breeds a desirable female parent by replacing its cytoplasm, a cell component essential for plant growth and reproduction, by an alternative cytoplasm that fails to support the development of anthers or pollen. This cytoplasm switch, conducted by a multigenerational breeding process, neuters the plant’s male parts (stamen or anthers) but leaves the parental line otherwise intact and ready to be pollinated by the second breed or male parental line. In crops like sunflower, sugarbeet, rapeseed but also barley and rye, similar CMS systems have successfully produced hybrid seed for many years.

In the case of wheat, the female (neutered) seeds are planted with male parents by Syngenta in a blend of about 95:5, the male plants assuring proper pollination of the female plants.

Jan Gielen

“The seed is then harvested together,” Mr. Gielen said. “Hybrid wheat therefore is not as uniform as corn since the hybrid seed will also contain a low percentage of the male plants using this technique.”

Other breeders use a technique similar to production of hybrid corn, in which three drill strips of female seed are planted for each strip of male.

The humanitarian case for investment in hybrid programs is a compelling one, Dr. Baenziger said. He spoke on the subject May 27 in a webinar sponsored by the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium. Toward the end of his presentation, Dr. Baenziger discussed the importance of hybrid wheat in the future, posing the question, “Why do we need to do this?”

“We know what the population is expected to grow to, and we also know that that population will not eat like the population we have today,” he said. “They are going to be more prosperous. They are going to eat more so we need to improve our grain yield by 1.4% to 1.7% annually. And currently in the Great Plains, the breadbasket of America we’re at 0.9%. So if you don’t have a plan to raise grain yield by 1.4% to 1.7% annually, you have a plan to fail. And failure cannot be an option.”

Looking beyond the United States, Dr. Baenziger cited data showing developing world wheat yields are rising 1% annually, and rice is rising at the same rate. Corn is averaging above 2%. Yields in the developed world are not rising for wheat, and corn yields are climbing about 1.5% a year.

“So they are in the ballpark,” Dr. Baenziger said.

Rather than being intimidated by the success of hybrid corn and giving up, the wheat community should look to rice for what may be possible.

“Hybrid rice, facing similar challenges, persevered and they continued,” he said. “They were told that it wouldn’t work. You couldn’t get it done. It’s a self-pollinating crop. You can’t make cross-pollinated crops, and that occurred right up until they figured out the system. The father of hybrid rice Yuan Longping died just May 22. Now there are 17 million-plus hectares of hybrid rice grown globally. Millions of people are fed because of that. What always bothered me as a public plant breeder is the question: Where could wheat be — because there is only 100,000 to 200,000 hectares for hybrid wheat — if someone had continued to work on hybrid wheat?”
While emphasizing considerable time and investment will be required if hybrid wheat is to gain a foothold in the United States and globally, Dr. Baenziger said the mapping of the wheat genome and learnings from this breakthrough spearheaded by researchers in Europe will make the identification of successful hybrid pairings far more efficient.

Toward that end, the University of Nebraska is collaborating with Texas A&M University in a hybrid initiative in which each university breeding program contributed 25 males and 50 females, equating to 150 lines in total.

“If you have 150 lines total you can make 11,175 hybrids,” he said. “I can’t make them, I can’t test them, but using the algorithms from our colleagues in Germany we can make 700 hybrids. That’s 25 males by 14 females and there are a different set of females for each one of the males by two locations. That’s to make sure we don’t have a weather catastrophe.”

Thanks to the genome mapping science, testing of 700 hybrids allows scientists to accurately predict the performance of the remaining 10,475 wheat lines, he said.
Two years of trials have generated promising results with numerous hybrids outperforming the most successful inbred checks.

“So heterosis (when a crossbred individual outperforms both parents, also known as hybrid vigor) can be found,” he said. “The key point is, you’re going to have to breed for it. Hybrid corn didn’t get to where it is today by a hundred years of random chance, it was very hard breeding for heterosis and that’s what we’re seeing here. “
Dr. Baenziger said it is impossible to predict whether the adoption of hybridization in wheat will reverse the erosion of wheat planted area in the United States. Ultimately, finding a way to keep cost of goods under control will determine whether hybrid wheat finally gains a foothold, but Dr. Baenziger is confident hybrid vigor will be achieved.

“There are really excellent algorithms to predict hybrid vigor,”
he said. “That’s only because of sequence information. Big data allowed it . Companies are coming back to hybrid wheat. They see opportunity and it is worth the investment to the benefit of the grower, end user, and consumer.

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The future of milling: art versus science

Sequencing the wheat genome as published in 2018 by the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium represented a “major step forward” in wheat genomics, said Pierre Devaux, PhD, director of research and innovation at Florimond Desprez, a seed company based in Cappelle-en-Pevele, France.

The sequencing has launched a process that will continue for many years to find molecular markers necessary to breed wheat in a way that leads to more desirable traits, including higher yield, greater disease resistance and enhanced milling and baking quality.

Dr. Devaux and other global experts in the field offered an upbeat assessment of the potential for what will result from studying wheat genetics, including revitalizing efforts to develop hybrid wheat (see related story above, beginning on Page 1). At the same time, the scientists said many wheat breeders initially were reluctant to utilize the tools made possible by the successful sequencing of the wheat genome. Such reluctance appears to be fading.

“When this sequence became available, it was very much used to locate various sequences that were currently used to develop new molecular markers in the vicinity of the sequences of interest, improve them, and design more friendly molecular markers that are more robust, reliable and less costly in their usage,” Dr. Devaux said.

Rudi Appels, PhD, an honorary professor at the University of Melbourne, said that in addition to setting the stage for projection of the molecular markers used to track traits in breeding programs, the work laid bare “the almost whimsical distribution of repetitive genes across the A, B and D genomes” of the hexaploid cereal plant (two copies of each of three genomes (A, B and D) or six sets of chromosomes).

“Research on the genome sequence has also shown gaps (missing sequences in the genome),” Dr. Appels said. “Just in May the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium published a major improvement in the assembly of each of the 21 chromosomes incorporating new technologies. The optical maps where DNA molecules are physically observed has been a major breakthrough in wheat.

Christopher Burt, cereal genotyping manager at RAGT Seeds in the United Kingdom, also highlighted progress achieved since the 2018 sequencing of the genome.

“The major advance subsequently has been the publication of more than 10 different varieties — the wheat PanGenome,” he said. “While the original genome was a huge advance, it was in a ‘lab rat’ wheat variety called Chinese spring, which is very different from modern wheat varieties. The more recent genome ‘assemblies’ provide us with much more relevant information for us to use in our breeding programs. There have also been major advances in how we, and everyone, can access the data, through publicly available web-based tools. These have helped people without specialist computer programming capabilities to utilize the information.”

Breeders increasingly are embracing the tools made possible by the sequencing of the wheat genome, Dr. Devaux said.

“In the early days, some breeders were doubtful about the use of new technologies, e.g. molecular markers, especially when their breeding programs were running very well,” he said. “But now all the wheat breeding community is convinced about the benefit of such technologies and has been using them routinely and at high levels.”

Dr. Appels was more blunt about reticence among veteran breeders and tipped his cap to Stephen Baenziger, professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, as an exception among this group.

“Adoption of the molecular tools and high throughput phenotyping in breeding has required commitment from visionary individuals such as Stephen Baenziger as well as the younger breeders coming through the education system,” Dr. Appels said. “In general the adoption by the older breeders has not been good because they (correctly) insisted on ‘show me’ the results. This ‘show me’ test is now being achieved particularly with the application of SNP chips for the rapid genotyping of individuals in a breeding program.”

Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are used to study small variations between whole genomes to identify traits, including disease susceptibility/resistance.

Mr. Burt said many breeders found data from wheat genome sequencing “quite removed” from their work in the field, adding that the wheat breeding community is using the new technology to some extent “even if they aren’t entirely aware of how they are using it.”

Tackling the threats posed by climate change is among the most important potential benefits that could emanate from the sequencing of the wheat genome, Dr. Devaux said.

“Agriculture is facing many challenges, including global warming, extremely changing weather conditions e.g., flooding, extreme drought, heat, increasing population over the world, ban of pesticides, organic agriculture and more,” he said. “This means that breeding programs have to adapt to these new situations, and as far as there are genes controlling the traits, the breeders can have a response to that. With better knowledge of the wheat genome and more recently of the wheat genomes (at least 15 have been sequenced so far), more areas of the genome that contribute to increase yield, quality… will be identified and combined to improve these traits. In addition, we have better information on what parents we have to cross to combine many genes of interest.”

Dr. Devaux said biotechnology may play a role in helping wheat adapt to changing needs, globally if not in the United States.

“We have created a GM wheat that is more resistant to drought and salinity for South America,” he said. “For this part of the world, this new trait enabled wheat to be adopted in areas where it is more difficult to grow.”

Because of the long timeline entailed in developing new wheat varieties, Mr. Burt cautioned that patience will be required.

“Most advances in wheat varieties that we have recently seen or will see in the next 18 months started from the research and breeding process long before the availability of the wheat genome,” he said. “Also, the wheat genome is just one component that helps the research and development that underpins wheat breeding.”

As an example, Mr. Burt cited the introduction by RAGT in the United Kingdom of a variety dubbed RGT Wolverine. The variety resists barley yellow dwarf virus, which is important because certain chemical solutions for the virus have been banned.
“The process of introducing this trait and the extensive backcrossing process started about 20 years before the release of the wheat genome,” he said.

“This is an important development as bans on neonicotinoid seed treatments have caused concern over the resurgence of viral diseases such as barley yellow dwarf virus that are spread through an insect vector,” he said. “The use of the wheat genome in our genetic marker design process helped us at RAGT to develop markers to a resistance to this virus so that we could introduce it efficiently into competitive wheat genetics. Although, to go back to my earlier comment, the process of introducing this trait and the extensive backcrossing process started about 20 years before the release of the wheat genome.”

Dr. Appels said yields, by necessity, long have been a priority for wheat breeders and growers. SNPs have helped efforts around yields to make considerable progress toward developing varieties best able to “deal with the constant challenge of biotic and abiotic stresses.”

In the past, breeders often spent a decade or longer working to achieve a major breakthrough on a single trait, Dr. Appels said. While many years will still be required to develop new varieties, the sequencing of the wheat genome and SNPs will allow breeders to focus on enhancing multiple traits simultaneously, including traits of interest to milling and baking, he said.

As an example, he discussed ways to boost milling yields.

“In the standard milling of grain, a larger grain is optimal and contributes to milling yield,” he said. “Variation for this trait has been mapped to the genome to define regions that can now be tracked using the SNP chip technology.

“This technology generates haplotype ‘fingerprints’ of significant regions for milling yields that can be documented at the same time as regions conferring environmental tolerance and disease resistance.”

He explained that in the past, multiple tests would be conducted on each sample for individual traits. He said the fingerprint technology replaces much more time consuming biochemical procedures that had been used to identify associations for favorable quality attributes.

“In flour, high molecular weight and low molecular weight glutenins and gliadins are the major proteins,” he said. “These three proteins make up what people commonly call gluten. For a whole generation, those proteins have been measured by chemical means. Now they can be measured by the fingerprint testing procedure. These are critical components of wheat flour quality.”

Dr. Appels said feedback from the milling and baking industries will be crucial for breeders to understand which varieties have the qualities that are most desirable. He believes the DNA fingerprinting technology will facilitate enhanced integration of the feedback from millers and bakers into the work of breeders.

He cautioned that many quality characteristics, including water absorption properties of flour, are not as well defined as the glutenin flour proteins. He said wheat genome sequencing will “provide a more rigorous methodology for ensuring that large batches of grain meet the stated specifications for milling and baking.”
What is imperative for the next several years, Dr. Appels said, is building out a database of fingerprints that offer quality keys to a comprehensive range of important wheat quality traits, such as water absorption and milling yields.

HFCS history shows challenges, perseverance

By Ron Sterk

April 6, 2021

HFCS history shows challenges, perseverance

Corn derivative remains second most popular caloric sweetener


High-fructose corn syrup came on the market in the late 1960s as a low-cost alternative to sugar and experienced tremendous growth for the next 30 years. Then came controversial research and biased news reports that turned the public’s perception negative and sent consumption into a decades-long slide that continues today, with the added challenge of overall caloric sweetener reduction. Is there a long-term future for HFCS? Based on its history, it’s a bit early to count it out.

This centennial article will examine the history, challenges and future of HFCS, a product that has been an important ingredient for the grain-based foods industry for half a century. First, the ground rules defining HFCS in a hopefully simplified explanation.

Chemists Richard O. Marshall and Earl R. Kooi first produced HFCS in 1957 when they created the enzyme glucose isomerase, which rearranged the composition of glucose in corn syrup, with the first patent granted in 1960 to the Corn Products Refining Co. (which later became CPC and then Ingredion Inc.). Little did they know what a firestorm they had created — one that would include corporate intrigue, questionable science, bad journalism and lawsuits as the result of their discovery proliferated the food processing industry. Despite that, 50 years later HFCS remains the second-most-used caloric sweetener after sugar in the United States.

Several types of HFCS are available in the marketplace, with HFCS55 produced in the greatest volume, used predominantly in soft drinks, and HFCS42, used in processed foods, including baked foods, cereals, dairy products and other applications. HFCS with fructose content as high as 95% is available but not widely used in food applications. HFCS is naturally liquid, although crystalized forms are available.

HFCS is derived from the starch of field corn, which makes up about 80% of the kernel. In the corn wet milling process, the starch is broken down into individual glucose molecules, first becoming regular corn syrup (glucose). Then, a series of enzymatic processes (including the key isomerization) convert some of the glucose to fructose. HFCS55 consists of 55% fructose and about 45% glucose and HFCS42 consists of 42% fructose and 58% glucose. HFCS55 is made by combining HFCS42 and HFCS90 in the right amounts to get 55% fructose.

The amounts of fructose in HFCS are not that different from regular sugar (sucrose), derived from crystalizing juice of sugarcane or sugar beets, which is 50% fructose and 50% glucose and has been around for centuries. Invert sugar, made from sucrose, is 45% fructose, 45% glucose and 10% unhydrolized sucrose. Honey is about 48% fructose and 52% glucose. “Regular” corn syrup is 100% glucose. Concentrations of fructose over 50% make HFCS sweeter than sugar, but not as sweet as many expect. The word “high” in high-fructose corn syrup is somewhat of a misnomer, especially in the case of HFCS42, which is only about 92% as sweet as sugar.


The main differences between sucrose and HFCS, according to the Food and Drug Administration, is that HFCS contains water. Both glucose and fructose are monosaccharides. In sucrose a chemical bond joins glucose and fructose molecules that are broken down rapidly by stomach acids. HFCS has no such chemical bond joining glucose and fructose, thus it’s a disaccharide. That difference, and how the body subsequently processes sucrose, glucose and fructose has fueled much of the debate surrounding HFCS. Adding to the debate is the fact that HFCS is “manufactured” rather than occurring naturally in the corn kernel, unlike sugar that occurs naturally in beets and cane. The “natural” debate continues today, in part because the FDA has never defined what constitutes a “natural” food. Most agree that once broken down, the human body processes the basic molecules in the same way whether from sugar or HFCS.

Also important is that nearly all caloric sweeteners have about four calories per gram, whether HFCS, sugar, honey, agave or other sweeteners.

library of congress
Library of Congress

The early years: Growth

HFCS jumped in popularity in the late 1970s when sugar prices skyrocketed to more than 70¢ a lb. The Coca-Cola Co.’s use of HFCS to replace sugar in the 1980s to cut costs while it was battling No. 2 Pepsi-Cola was dramatized in The History Channel’s “Cola Wars” segment of “The Food That Built America” series, which aired as recently as March.


“Beverage manufacturers were looking for alternatives to high sugar prices,” said Craig Ruffolo, vice president, McKeany-Flavell Co.

Coca-Cola was locked in a battle with the Pepsi-Cola Co. in the 1970s. Pepsi’s famous “Pepsi Challenge” that showed consumers preferred the sweeter, slightly more syrupy taste of Pepsi over Coke in blind taste tests allowed Pepsi to begin taking market share from Coke, although Coca-Cola always has led in sales. Coca-Cola then embarked on several changes in the 1980s, including the release of Diet Coke in 1982, still the most popular diet soda. Then chief executive officer Roberto Gouzueta led Coca-Cola to switch from sugar to HFCS55 for cost savings.


“HFCS had been around for five or six years but had not received that much attention,” said Kyd Brenner, an agricultural trade consultant who was an employee and vice president of the Corn Refiners Association from 1975 to 2000. “High sugar prices spurred the interest of big food companies.”


Coca-Cola first used HFCS in some minor brands in the 1970s, but then phased in use in its flagship brand in the 1980s.


The History Channel also noted that “the switch to corn syrup opened the door for bigger changes to the original Coke’s recipe.” What followed was the famously disastrous release of reformulated “New Coke” in 1985, which included a new formulation in addition to HFCS. A consumer “uprising” prompted Coca-Cola to bring back the old formula as “Coca-Cola Classic” just three months after the release of New Coke, but the classic remained sweetened by HFCS.


“HFCS production capacity had built up and the food industry knew how to use it by the early 1980s,” Mr. Brenner said.


In addition to lower price, Mr. Ruffolo noted that HFCS offered other key benefits — adequate supply and uniformity. The product was derived from field corn, the most widely grown crop in the United States, and the manufacturing process ensured a uniform final product no matter the supplier.


Domestic deliveries of HFCS for food and beverage use, based on data from the US Department of Agriculture, went from zero in 1967 to a high of 63.8 lbs per person in 1999, compared to sugar at 98.5 lbs per person in 1967 (reaching an all-time high of 102.3 lbs in 1972) falling to 66.4 lbs in 1999, less than a pound more than HFCS. Total per capita deliveries of caloric sweeteners were 114.2 lbs in 1967 and peaked at 151.6 lbs in 1999.


Sosland Publishing Co. began reporting HFCS prices in the mid-1980s.

The mid-years: Controversy, maturity

“Success breeds contempt,” actor Samuel L. Jackson said in 2016, referring to rivals Marvel and DC Comics in adapting comics to movies, a statement not unlike “familiarity breeds contempt,” stated by Mark Twain and others throughout the years.


HFCS certainly had become successful and familiar, at least in the food industry from 1967 to 1999.


While HFCS use was growing rapidly, obesity rates also were shooting skyward. As the two trends were occurring nearly simultaneously, some were quick to point a finger at HFCS as the reason Americans were getting fatter. Several early scientific studies initially “confirmed” the connection, while others subsequently showed no causal effect.


“HFCS was a disruptive technology,” Mr. Brenner said. “There was a fear of the unknown. Sucrose had been ‘the’ sweetener for hundreds of years.”

There were some early challenges to HFCS that never gained traction, he pointed out, but those challenges “returned with a vengeance” in the early 2000s.


The attacks on HFCS especially gained attention in 2004 when George A. Bray, MD, a professor of medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and Barry M. Popkin, PhD, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published a hypothesis that HFCS was a direct causative factor in obesity, based on the relation between the growth of HFCS consumption and increased obesity rates between 1960 and 2000.


“Even the two scientists who first propagated the idea of a unique link between high-fructose corn syrup and America’s soaring obesity rates have gently backed off from their initial theories,” The New York Times said in a significant article titled “A Sweetener With a Bad Rap” in 2006.

“It was a theory meant to spur science, but it’s quite possible that it may be found out not to be true,” Dr. Popkin was quoted as saying in The Times’ story.


The New York Times also noted that Michael F. Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and a common critic of the food industry, “never supported the notion that high-fructose corn syrup was a unique contributor to obesity,” although he said HFCS was artificial because it was created by a change in molecular structure rather than occurring naturally.


But the “cat was out of the bag” with the Bray/Popkin paper, and what followed was a “feeding frenzy” of activists, journalists and even parts of the sugar industry portraying the evils of HFCS. Some detractors went beyond blaming corn refiners to blame “cheap corn” that they claimed was heavily subsidized by the US government. Numerous studies would follow discounting the initial theory from Dr. Bray and Dr. Popkin, but none reversed the negative perception of HFCS.


Despite the “warning” signs against HFCS in the 1980s, “the industry had to scramble to assemble good and factual information,” said Mr. Brenner, who was a consultant for the CRA during the 2000s.


Further complicating matters for HFCS was a slowdown in use after years of sustained rapid growth.


“With or without the attacks, HFCS use was going to hit a peak,” Mr. Brenner said. “HFCS has been a mature product since 2000.”

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The attacks on HFCS especially gained attention in 2004 when George A. Bray, MD, a professor of medicine at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., and Barry M. Popkin, PhD, a nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published a hypothesis that HFCS was a direct causative factor in obesity, based on the relation between the growth of HFCS consumption and increased obesity rates between 1960 and 2000.


“Even the two scientists who first propagated the idea of a unique link between high-fructose corn syrup and America’s soaring obesity rates have gently backed off from their initial theories,” The New York Times said in a significant article titled “A Sweetener With a Bad Rap” in 2006.


“It was a theory meant to spur science, but it’s quite possible that it may be found out not to be true,” Dr. Popkin was quoted as saying in The Times’ story.


The New York Times also noted that Michael F. Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and a common critic of the food industry, “never supported the notion that high-fructose corn syrup was a unique contributor to obesity,” although he said HFCS was artificial because it was created by a change in molecular structure rather than occurring naturally.


But the “cat was out of the bag” with the Bray/Popkin paper, and what followed was a “feeding frenzy” of activists, journalists and even parts of the sugar industry portraying the evils of HFCS. Some detractors went beyond blaming corn refiners to blame “cheap corn” that they claimed was heavily subsidized by the US government. Numerous studies would follow discounting the initial theory from Dr. Bray and Dr. Popkin, but none reversed the negative perception of HFCS.


Despite the “warning” signs against HFCS in the 1980s, “the industry had to scramble to assemble good and factual information,” said Mr. Brenner, who was a consultant for the CRA during the 2000s.


Further complicating matters for HFCS was a slowdown in use after years of sustained rapid growth.


“With or without the attacks, HFCS use was going to hit a peak,” Mr. Brenner said. “HFCS has been a mature product since 2000.”


After peaking at 63.8 lbs per capita in 1999, deliveries of HFCS tumbled nearly 25% to 48.4 lbs by 2010. Sugar deliveries, meanwhile, dipped to a 17-year low of 61 lbs in 2003 and then climbed to 66 lbs in 2010. Amid the public’s growing negative perception of HFCS, the food processing industry began to reformulate HFCS out of foods (and thus off labels) and switch back to sugar or some other “natural” sweetener.


The story of HFCS may not be told without the role of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), the Washington trade group representing and defending the industry. Leading the CRA during the most challenging years was Audrae Erickson, who was president from 2002 until 2012. She led efforts on trade and rebuffed numerous challenges accusing HFCS of being the cause of rising obesity rates in America.


The CRA has six member companies: Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill, Grain Processing Corp., Ingredion Inc., Roquette America, Inc., and Tate & Lyle Americas. All of those make HFCS except Grain Processing, which focuses on starch and maltodextrins. They all also produce fuel ethanol and numerous other products.


Despite its numerous challenges and victories for the industry, the CRA also had a couple missteps along the way. One was an attempt to change the name from high-fructose corn syrup to corn sugar at the height of the negative press era. The FDA rejected that attempt.


Also controversial was a print and television advertising campaign by the CRA in 2008 extolling the benefits of HFCS, or at least noting its similarities to sugar. The effect of the campaign on consumers was questionable at a cost some estimated between $20 million and $30 million.


A 2012 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Internal Medicine noted that weight gain resulted when HFCS was consumed in addition to existing daily caloric intake but not when it was consumed in place of other sugars. Thus, the key was total calories consumed, not necessarily the type of calories, and Americans were consuming lots more calories during the final decades of the 20th century and into the 2000s (while also becoming more sedentary), especially caloric-sweetened beverages, which to some, pointed the finger back at HFCS.


Whether from work by the CRA or the numerous studies countering the initial anti-HFCS research, “the effort just ran out of steam,” in the late 2000s, Mr. Brenner said. “People lost interest.”


Then there were lawsuits and counter lawsuits between the corn sweetener and sugar industries (initiated by sugar) that started around 2011, part of which focused on accusations of false advertising in the 2008 HFCS public relations campaign. The sugar industry sought $1.5 billion in damages. The CRA countered with accusations that the sugar industry was running a “spin-and-smear conspiracy” against the HFCS industry, seeking $530 million in damages. Those cases finally were settled out of court in 2015.


“The sweetener industry realized that ‘inter-sweetener warfare’ wasn’t doing anyone any good,” Mr. Brenner said.

Exports to Mexico surge with NAFTA

Producers of HFCS got a reprieve of sorts with the North American Free Trade agreement in 2008. US refiners had exported between 150,000 and nearly 200,000 tonnes, dry weight basis, of total fructose (mainly HFCS55 but also some HFCS42 and crystalline fructose) to Mexico annually from 1997 through 2000 (calendar year), but those shipments plunged to a low of about 5,700 tonnes in 2003 amid challenges from Mexico’s sugar industry unhappy with the displacement of sugar used by Mexican bottlers and others. US exports recovered to about 330,000 tonnes by 2007. As in the United States, HFCS was an economical alternative to sugar in Mexico.


NAFTA opened unlimited, duty-free trade in sweeteners (mainly sugar and HFCS) between the two countries. Mexican bottlers imported HFCS to replace the large amount of sugar being exported to the United States, a far more lucrative destination for Mexico’s excess sugar than other world markets. Shipments of HFCS to Mexico jumped by 36% in 2008, the first year of the agreement respective to sweeteners, finally peaking at 1,138,750 tonnes in 2012, nearly three-and-a-half times the 2007 amount.

But it was an uneasy period for HFCS exports because sugar trade between the two countries grew more contentious over the next several years, with Mexico threatening to suspend or limit imports of US HFCS in retaliation for US sugar producers’ challenges to its large sugar exports to the United States. With unlimited, duty-free exports to the US market, Mexico boosted its sugar production, rising to a record 6,975,000 tonnes, actual weight, in 2012-13, up 37% from the prior five-year average. The influx of sugar from Mexico contributed to eight-year low prices for US sugar and culminated in US sugar producers filing anti-dumping and countervailing duty complaints against Mexico. US sugar producers prevailed in 2014, anti-dumping and countervailing duties were imposed and subsequently suspended per agreements to limit Mexico’s exports of sugar to the United States.


US exports of HFCS to Mexico took a hit as a result, but not as severely as some had feared as Mexico quickly trimmed sugar production to an average just over 6 million tonnes annually over the next five years, down 16% from the 2012-13 peak. US shipments of HFCS to Mexico dropped to 900,967 tonnes in 2014 and would build back to a recent high of 1,052,748 tonnes in 2017, when other factors began to affect both sugar and HFCS consumption in Mexico — namely sweetener taxes and a major government push to reduce consumption of added sugars.
Mexico remains by far the largest export market for US HFCS.

The latter years and beyond: Decline?

While cooler heads prevailed in the sweetener industry after the lawsuits were settled in 2015, problems for HFCS are far from over.

Deliveries of HFCS in the United States dropped another 25% from 48.4 lbs per person in 2010 to 36.7 lbs in 2019 (the most recent data available), according to the USDA. That’s the lowest since 31.2 lbs in 1983, when the sweetener was in the early stages of a 30-year upswing. From its peak of 63.8 lbs in 1999, per capita deliveries of HFCS in the United States declined 42% over the next 20 years, while sugar deliveries edged up 3.2% to 68.5 lbs in 2019, although it should be noted that per capita sugar deliveries have eased from a recent high of 69.8 lbs in 2016.


Cost advantages over sugar, dependable supply and other functional benefits of HFCS have helped HFCS maintain a foothold in the US and Mexican food and beverage markets. But those benefits haven’t slowed the decline in use as some food manufacturers continue to formulate away from HFCS, in part amid the clean label movement of recent years but also because of general sugar reduction. HFCS, along with sugar and soybean oil, all avoided the GMO label despite coming mostly from GMO crops, because any traits are eliminated during the refining processes.

“In the 1970s beverage manufacturers were looking for alternatives to high sugar prices,” Mr. Ruffolo said. “It’s no different today. Food manufacturers will continue to look for alternatives for price and functionality.”

Mr. Brenner agreed, noting that while HFCS is used globally, it is most widely used in the United States and Mexico, and “there remain opportunities around the world.”

And consumers are changing.

“The lines have blurred,” Mr. Ruffolo said, referring to generational changes in consumer food and beverage preferences and demands, and the “lumping of caloric sweeteners together” as total added sugars rather than HFCS or sugar. The younger generation has grown up only knowing the taste of soda sweetened with HFCS, he noted.

Meanwhile, the corn wet milling industry will adapt, he said, just as it did in the past two decades reducing HFCS production capacity to match declining demand, thus maintaining price levels because there was limited excess supply. The industry also has adjusted its marketing technique in recent years, now working mostly with buyers rather than depending as much on distributors, and pricing supply based on individual customers rather than issuing blanket pricing “letters” announcing increases.

So what lies ahead? Will the sharply declining demand picture be accelerated by the overall push to reduce added sugars? Will soda taxes, which talk about sugar but in reality mostly affect HFCS, increase and gnaw away at HFCS consumption? Despite a colorful 50-year history, HFCS remains second only to its longtime rival sugar as the caloric sweetener of preference in the United States. HFCS now may well be locked in a battle with sugar to maintain caloric sweeteners in food and beverages rather than fighting against sugar for market share.