Ardent Mills to buy further into gluten-free

Company plans deal for North Dakota pulse miller Firebird

(Video screengrab via FirebirdMills.com)

A major North American flour miller plans to stretch its reach further into the gluten-free milling market with a deal for a North Dakota processor.

Ardent Mills said Monday it plans to buy the assets of Firebird Artisan Mills, which processes pulses and specialty grains at Harvey, N.D., about 240 km south of Brandon, Man.

Ardent and Firebird — the latter today owned by Kansas City-based holding company Agspring — are “continuing with due diligence” and expect to close a deal by the end of this year. Financial terms weren’t disclosed in Monday’s release.

Firebird bills itself as producing more than 30 ICS (International Certification Services)-certified gluten-free flours at a dedicated gluten-free, organic and kosher facility.

Denver-based Ardent has already made moves into the gluten-free, specialty flour and plant-based ingredient spaces. It made a deal earlier this year to buy Washington chickpea processor Hinrichs Trading Co., and last year bought California quinoa processor Andean Naturals.

A deal for Firebird, Ardent said, will “enhance customers’ access to gluten-free flours, mixes, blends and specialty grain products; provide additional supply chain assurance; and add additional capabilities to (its) leading R+D, technical, food safety and quality assurance teams.”

Firebird has already been “a collaborative and well-established partner of ours in the gluten-free and specialty ingredients space since the formation of Ardent Mills,” Ardent CEO Dan Dye said in Monday’s release.

“Ardent Mills has the right expertise in bringing together strong network supply chains and operating as a nimble and flexible company. Moreover, they share the same strong food safety and quality assurance values as us,” Agspring CEO Mark Beemer said in the same release. “These are just a few reasons why we believe that Ardent Mills is the right fit to take Firebird to the next level of growth.”

Agspring’s other holdings include Mississippi Delta-based grain handler Big River Rice and Grain; Idaho grain handler Thresher Artisan Wheat; and Kansas City logistics firm AgForce Transport Services.

Ardent has mills in 20 U.S. states and Puerto Rico, plus three Canadian sites, at Saskatoon, Montreal and Mississauga. The company has previously said its growth plan involves further investment in specialty ingredients and diversifying its portfolio beyond wheat flour.

Ardent itself was set up in 2014 as a joint-venture company merging the milling operations of ConAgra Foods and Horizon Milling — the latter already a joint venture between Cargill and U.S. ag co-operative CHS.

It also set up The Annex by Ardent Mills in 2018 to offer plant-based proteins and other specialty ingredients made from pulses as well as barley, rye, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, spelt, triticale and teff, an edible grass seed. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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