Minot Milling grinds the wheat to make our bread – and our pasta

Minot Milling makes flour from area wheat for national market

Minot Milling employee Joe Reza sets out samples of ground wheat as equipment mills it into flour. Jill Schramm/MDN

That pasta in your bowl of chicken noodle soup just might have have come from Minot.

Minot Milling, with its locally sourced durum and hard red spring wheat, is the source of a number of food products on the national market. Philadelphia Macaroni Co., the parent company that built Minot Milling in 1998, uses the majority of the mill’s flour to create pasta and noodles at its plants in Grand Forks, Spokane, Wash., and two in Pennsylvania. The pasta can turn up in a variety of grocery store items.

“If anybody eats Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, it started here,” said facility manager Kevin Schulz at Minot Milling. The mill also supplies flour for products later branded by Knorrs, Stauffer’s, Nestle, Annie’s Organic and other companies.

The mill largely produces semolina from durum wheat but also produces white and whole wheat flour from spring wheat and both organic durum and spring wheat flours. Semolina is used in pasta while the spring wheat flour is used in egg noodles or is sold to bakeries.

Minot Milling expanded its capacity by about 25 percent in the last couple of years by adding efficiencies with new equipment, Schulz said. The plant went from shipping 1.2 million pounds of flour a day to shipping up to 1.5 million pounds a day in operating five or six days a week.

Technology has enabled the mill to increase production without a huge investment or the need to add and train staff, Schulz said. The mill employs 40 people.

About 10 to 12 percent of Minot Milling’s production is organic, making the mill the largest processor of organic durum and spring wheat in the nation last year.

“To a lot of people’s surprise, it’s been a slow and steady growth,” Schulz said of the demand for organic. Demand increases every year regardless of how the economy is doing, he said.

The mill looks farther away – to farmers in Canada and Montana – for organic production, but its traditional wheat supply is sourced within a 100- to 200-mile radius of Minot.

Durum acres have been declining in the region due to disease and the popularity of new crops, such as soybeans. Procurement manager Chris Schelling with Minot Milling said there are growers who favor durum and want it in their rotation regardless, and that helps ensure a steady supply. Quality issues are a bigger concern than acreage when it comes to finding adequate commodities, he said. The mill demands a higher quality grain than a local elevator might take.

“This last year it wasn’t that hard because the quality was very much improved from the last couple of years. It was a lot easier to find locally,” Schelling said. “Quality was phenomenal. The drought did affect the yields a little bit, but actually everything came out a little better than everybody was anticipating.”

Schelling said the mill typically works with 50 to 60 producers and also might purchase some grain through local elevators. Minot Milling works closely with Philadelphia Macaroni’s marketing office to provide information on available grain and quality of the grain to attract buyers looking for certain products at their price points. Purchases from farmers and sales to customers often occur in fairly quick succession to take advantage of those matches and reduce company risk.

Schulz sees a bright future for Minot Milling due to its modern mill, position in the industry and consumers’ desires for quick, nutritious and economical meals.

“There will always be a demand for pasta,” Schulz said. “It’s such a simple food, such a basic food.”