Thank you to General Mills for sponsoring today’s post. All thoughts are my own.
Breakfast was my favorite meal by far growing up. I never met a breakfast food I didn’t like and cereal was a favorite. I have special memories of my grandma buying little boxes of cereal special for me when I’d sleep over. Getting to choose my cereal in the morning from so many varieties was my favorite part because I loved them all! At the time, it never occurred to me that some people wouldn’t be able to choose just any kind of cereal they wanted. With the increase in awareness for those with gluten sensitivity over the past several years, I now know that there are those who have limited options for breakfast. That is why I’m so happy to hear that now five varieties of Cheerios are gluten free!
This classic cereal is not only made with 100% whole grain oats but is now available as gluten free in several varieties! I was surprised to learn that these heart healthy oats make a stop in my hometown of Duluth, MN before being processed. I had a chance to chat with Sterling Morrow, Operations Manager at the Fridley Oat Mill in Fridley, MN to learn more about the process.
Where are the Twin Ports facilities?
The Twin Ports are made up of twin cities Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, both of which are seaports located on the westernmost part of Lake Superior. Together they are considered the largest freshwater port in the world! The General Mills grain elevator in Duluth, MN has been owned and operated since 1950s. The grain elevators located in Superior have been used by General Mills since 1989 and owned since 2012.
Where do the oats come from?
Most of the oats we source are from Canada and this is not new. The growing conditions in Canada are great for oats and they produce a high quality, heart healthy grain.
How and why do they come to the Twin Ports?
The Twin Ports grain elevators are located in a convenient spot in the supply chain and offer a lot of storage. Because of this, they can store grain for a longer and if the growing conditions are really good, they can buy extra. The oats go by rail car from co-ops and country elevators and are routed to the Twin Ports.
What do the Twin Ports facilities do?
Besides storage, they do quality control testing for specific characteristics. If the oats don’t meet their high quality specifications, they may be sold to other companies. The Twin Ports are far enough up in supply chain that they can make merchandising decisions and move them by rail or barge if necessary.
Approximately 150 million pounds of grain a year leave the Twin Ports!
What makes the Twin Ports facilitates special?
The more efficient they are at elevators, the easier it is at the mill. While under 50 people are employed at these facilities, they offer special expertise. They implement established practices that have been there a long time and it’s not uncommon for employees to have 25 years of experience. Employees have a strong sense of pride in their work and are particularly proud of implementing new processes to make Cheerios gluten free! Since they are the first stop in the oats supply chain, they know their decisions being made every day are affecting the final product.
Where do they go after the Twin Ports?
The Twin Ports facilities are able to bin accordingly and make sourcing, blending or inventory decisions. The oats travel by rail car from Twin Ports to the Fridley Oat Mill, where they de-hull oats and mill to flour before making their way to a cereal plant to be turned into Cheerios. It takes approximately one week to go from the Twin Ports to the finished Cheerios product. More than 108,000,000 boxes of regular Cheerios are made each year!
Where are the grains made gluten free?
A brand new facility in the Fridley Mill removes other grains from the oats so they can be gluten free! With a mechanical sorting system, they separate the wheat and barley out. The process has been streamlined to with a dedicated gluten free mill and cereal lines.
The process of making Cheerios gluten free has been in development for approximately seven years and was created by Phil, an employee of General Mills for over 50 yeas. When he learned his daughter-in-law couldn’t eat gluten, he worked hard to make sure the oats didn’t get mixed up with anything else during the making of Gluten Free Cheerios!
Learn more about his story and this process at Cheerios.com.
And get your own gluten free Cheerios in these varieties, now available nationwide!