Pizza, pasta and bread -- each may invoke images of meals shared and baker artistry, but not necessarily sorghum. A European trade team recently traveled to Kansas to reshape these perceptions of how sorghum flour can be incorporated into iconic baked goods in order to expand operations and potential sales for U.S. farmers.
Demand for sorghum in specialty, high-end products is growing in markets around the world, including the competitive European Union. Approximately 50% of the gluten-alternative world market is located in Europe, making this region a top target for U.S. food-grade sorghum promotion.
“The expanding demand for gluten-free alternatives is led by wealthy consumers in Europe,” said Kurt Shultz, U.S. Grains Council (USGC) senior director of global strategies. “Expanding U.S. food-grade sorghum into the European market would create a premium market for U.S. sorghum and help diversify demand for sorghum into a market that will pay a premium relative to commodity sorghum.”
The five-member team was organized by USGC and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program and represents a re-engagement in this market following the growth of the gluten-alternative milling industry in Europe. The team focused on sorghum production, milling, baking and commercialization, starting with visits to sorghum farms and a commercial elevator in Clifton, Kan., arranged by Kansas Sorghum.
Team members then moved to the north campus at Kansas State University for a hands-on approach to learning more about how to mill sorghum flour and utilize it for commercial bakery production. Specific micron sizes, which affect taste and texture, help U.S. operations diversify sorghum flour and showcase the grain’s versatility in consumer goods.
The European team trained in the Hal Ross Flour Mill to learn the technical differences between milling sorghum and other grains, led by Shawn Thiele, the IGP Institute’s flour milling and grain processing curriculum manager.
Later, Dave Kirshock, Bakers National Education Foundation instructor with Kansas State University’s department of grain science and industry, conducted a baking lab, allowing participants to apply what they had learned about the technical characteristics of sorghum flour, contrasting baking properties with other types of flour and emphasizing how to overcome the lack of gluten during baking.
Finally, Earl Roemer, president of NuLife Market, and representatives from ADM Milling demonstrated the full range of commercialization potential for sorghum flour, including for those iconic bakery products.
“The purpose of this trip is to educate European importers and bakers about the quality and diversity of U.S. sorghum,” said Doug Bice, sorghum checkoff market development director. “We are here to show trade teams like this one the opportunity U.S. sorghum offers to meet their growing consumer needs.”
USGC said growers in the U.S., the largest producer of sorghum, are well positioned to meet this increased demand. “Teams like the one this week provide the first step in an ongoing, collaborative effort to share U.S. technical expertise and supply chain know-how and make these win-win trade scenarios possible,” the group noted.