European Team Visits Sorghum Operations in the U.S.

A team of manufacturers and company executives from the European Union (EU) visited Kansas May 15-20 on a sorghum tour organized by the U.S. Grains Council and United Sorghum Checkoff Program. This team is the first from Europe to visit the U.S. to learn specifically about the sorghum food industry and consisted of representatives from Spain's baking, bread, milling, cooperative and livestock feed industries.

Spain, a large importer of grains estimated at 14 million metric tons per year, is an immense market opportunity for U.S. sorghum growers and suppliers. The EU team visiting the U.S. represents key industry executives interested in the opportunity sorghum offers. The growing trend of utilizing healthy, whole grains is popular not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, and these executives are interested in satisfying consumer demand in Spain.

"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. "Spain is a major purchaser of grains, and we're here to show trade teams like this the opportunity U.S. sorghum offers to meet their growing consumer needs."

During the sorghum tour, the team visited a baking lab, sorghum mill, retail stores and suppliers. They were able to witness sorghum's versatility in baked goods from baguettes and breakfast snacks, to cookies and flat bread. Sorghum production in the U.S. can satisfy the need for healthy baked goods, snacks, mixes and blends desired by consumers overseas. Though some believe sorghum is difficult to bake with since it is gluten-free, the team was provided with practical methods on utilizing sorghum flour in commercial baking operations to overcome this obstacle. The team received a hands-on lesson in sorghum's baking potential during their visit with Dave Kirshock, Bakers National Education Foundation instructor with Kansas State University's Department of Grain Science and Industry.

The EU team also learned the technical properties of growing and milling sorghum, in addition to its nutrient health benefits and versatility. Operations in the U.S. sorghum market are able to diversify sorghum flour through specified micron sizes, which can affect taste and texture of different products. Shawn Thielie, the International Grains Program's flour milling and grain processing curriculum manager, walked the team through the different techniques used in processing sorghum into different forms and compared sorghum's qualities to other popular baking ingredients to show the grain's versatility.

Demand is growing for sorghum use in healthy, whole-grain specialty products across the globe within numerous competitive markets. As the largest producer of sorghum, U.S. growers are well positioned to meet this increase in demand in Europe. The team was assured the U.S. sorghum industry has the quantity and quality of sorghum mills, products and suppliers to meet Spain's growing demand and diversity in baked goods.

"The U.S. sorghum market is in a unique position to capitalize on the growing trend of healthy, whole grains in Europe," said Bice. "These trade team visits allow us the opportunity to share the benefits of utilizing U.S. sorghum in numerous consumer needs and to expand sorghum's market potential across the globe."

The Sorghum Checkoff would like to thank ADM Milling, the Collaborative Sorghum Investment Program, Hall Ross Flour Mill, the International Grains Program, Kansas Department of Agriculture, Kansas State University, NuLife Market and the U.S. Grains Council for their effort in creating and facilitating this opportunity for sorghum. 

EU sorghum trip

Front Row (L-R): Earl Roemer, Etsehiwot Gebreselassie, Manuel Angel, Josè Villamayor, Rachel Klataske, Doug Bice
Back Row (L-R): Shawn Thiele, Ricardo Hernandez, Alberto Perez, Loyola Toran, Llaria Mulinacci

Photo courtesy of IGP Institue