Trade Talk with Travis Green: What the New Year May Bring for the U.S. Dry Bean Industry

Trade Talk with Travis Green: What the New Year May Bring for the U.S. Dry Bean Industry

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Dario Bard, Reporter

Following the challenges of the past two campaigns, ADM’s Vice President for Global Wholesome Ingredients looks ahead to 2021.

ADM Edible Bean Specialties, a wholly owned subsidiary of ADM, is one of the largest vertically integrated dry bean processors in the United States. The company’s origination and processing footprint spans much of the country’s prime pulse growing regions, from the rolling hills of the inland northwest to the wide-open expanses of Minnesota, North Dakota and Michigan. As part of the greater ADM family, the edible bean business has marketing representatives in more than 160 countries and supplies beans to canners and packagers, as well as a broad portfolio of specialty ingredients to the makers of plant-based snacks, meat-alternatives, baked goods, dips, beverages and even premium companion pet food.

From 2016-19, Travis Green served as the general manager of the Edible Bean Specialties division. In August of 2019, he was promoted to the position of Vice President for Global Wholesome Ingredients. In his new post, he oversees not only edible bean specialties but also ancient grains and seeds. 

When Travis assumed his new role in 2019, the U.S. dry bean crop was heading into a challenging fall season, marked by cold and wet conditions along with atypical snowstorms that caused significant harvest delays, knocked down yields and degraded grain quality.

At the time, one dry bean industry veteran said, “It’s been one long, agonizing bean harvest. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

On average, the U.S. harvests between 1 to 1.5 million MT of dry beans per year, with pinto, black and navy beans accounting for approximately 70% of production. In 2019, the crop came in at 20.8 million cwt (just under 943,500 MT) according to the USDA, a decrease from the nearly 24.8 million cwt (1.12 million MT) harvested in 2018. Consequently, the U.S. dry bean industry entered MY 2019/20 with limited supplies at a time when bullish sentiment dominated world markets. To make matters worse, in the early months of 2020, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus threw supply chains into turmoil as countries imposed national lockdowns in an effort to contain the pandemic.

“The 2019 U.S. harvest posed a significant challenge, and COVID-related disruptions in supply compounded the issues faced by the entire supply chain,” recalls Travis. “Food service demand was reduced, but at the same time we saw an increase in retail demand of small-pack, canned beans and bulk exports.”

This past fall, the U.S. harvested an abundant dry bean crop. Production is estimated at nearly 35 million cwt (1,586,000 MT). As the 2020/21 marketing year gets underway, the GPC reached out to Travis to get his thoughts on what to expect heading into the new year.

 

GPC: Could you take us back to your early days and tell us a little bit about how you became involved in the dry bean business?

Travis: You’ve heard the saying that life has a way to come full circle, and how I ended up in the pulse business is true to the saying.

I grew up on a farm in central Illinois that was started by my family in 1891. Growing up, I was heavily involved in the farm’s operations and was attracted to the finance side of the business. I studied finance at the University of Illinois and earned my MBA with a finance concentration.

I have always felt a strong pull toward agriculture, and I was fortunate to earn an internship with ADM, which led to a role in its treasury department. Throughout my time with ADM, I’ve had the opportunity to expand my experience into business development and then into the commercial role I have today.

As Global Vice President of ADM Wholesome Food Ingredients, I lead several businesses within ADM’s Nutrition business unit, which affords me the opportunity and pleasure of working regularly with both growers and customers, taking me back to my roots in agriculture. I feel fortunate to be able to combine my passion for finance, business development, origination and commerce with close relationships with growers and processors.

Further, as a vegetarian I’m even more motivated to work with our teams around the world to bring dry beans into the shopping baskets of more and more consumers!

 

GPC: Could you give us an overview ADM’s dry bean business?

Travis: ADM edible bean specialties has been a leading U.S. originator and processor of dry beans for decades. Our product offerings include traditional triple clean beans for the packaging and canning industry to more value-added bean ingredients. The dry bean classes ADM specializes in include navy, black, pinto, small red, yellow, white kidney and great northern.

Beans and bean ingredients are a very on-trend ingredient, as they meet virtually every attribute consumers desire: high protein, high fiber, non-GMO, non-allergen, gluten free, plant based, vegetarian, vegan, sustainable and clean label. But beans aren't usually the sole ingredient in new products, and that's where it gets exciting!

As one of the world's largest and most complete nutrition solutions providers, ADM has the capability to support customers around the world with turn-key solutions, from a wide spectrum of ingredients including ancient grains, nuts and seeds to specialty proteins, fibers and starches, to flavors, colors, functional ingredients and cutting-edge, health forward extracts and pro- and postbiotics. As we work to bring the great taste and healthfulness of beans to new consumers and to new levels of innovation, these capabilities make it easy and fun for our customers to win in the competitive marketplace.

It should also be said that ADM is known throughout the industry for its consistently high-quality products, and with the support of our global infrastructure, we practice the highest standards for food safety, sustainability and compliance ethics.

 

GPC: What would you say is the best part of your job?

Travis: Forbes consistently ranks ADM as one of the most admired companies globally due to our commitment to quality, social responsibility, reputation, and customer value, and this accolade is only possible because of the people who make it happen every single day. Working with our Edible Bean Specialties team and our colleagues throughout the company is the best part of my job. We are truly a family with a shared mission to provide customers with the best product in the most professional manner possible.

Here is a case in point. Due to harvest conditions and COVID-19, 2019 and 2020 have been challenging years for the entire North American dry bean supply chain. The importance of supply chain integrity and cross-functional teamwork has never been more critical, and our team has met the challenge head on, delivering exceptional performance throughout every facet of our business. Being part of a team that came together and supported each other through such trying circumstances toward our common goal of fulfilling the vital objective of providing food to consumers has been an amazing experience.

 

GPC: At the GPC, we are grateful to ADM for its support as a President’s Club member. Could you speak to the company’s relationship with our organization?

Travis: Historically, ADM has been known as one of the world’s leading agricultural origination and processing companies; however, over the past decade the company has experienced a transformative evolution into a global leader in complete human and animal nutrition solutions. By combining our legacy businesses with our food ingredient and solutions capabilities, our breadth and depth of consumer and market insights, research and development expertise, global facilities and renowned logistical expertise give us capabilities that can serve to promote exports of U.S. dry beans from bulk to finished consumer packaged products.

The GPC is the global leader in pulse promotion and offers unparalleled access to help connect to all segments of the global industry value chain, and we are excited to be working with you to increase the world's consumption of beans and pulses!

 

GPC: What do you see as the major challenges or opportunities facing the U.S. dry bean industry?

Travis: There are both challenges and opportunities. The 2019 U.S. harvest posed a significant challenge, and COVID-related disruptions in supply compounded the challenges faced by the entire supply chain. Food service demand was reduced, but at the same time we saw an increase in retail demand of small-pack, canned beans and bulk exports. As we start marketing the 2020 crop, we anticipate these conditions will continue. Although it's unclear whether elevated demand will be short-term or a more permanent condition, it is clear end-users are more proactive in covering their needs to ensure there are no supply shortages and they do not get caught off-guard like with the 2019 crop. Turning to the 2021 crop, the estimated North American dry bean starting balance sheet looks tighter than the industry thought just a few months ago. What everyone will be watching is whether demand holds, and, from a supply perspective, how many acres will be planted given the run in competing commodity prices.  If acreage goals are not met, we could be looking at bullish situation until at least the 2022 crop.

On the topic of trade tariffs, those imposed by the European Union (EU) beginning in June 2018 created challenges to the competitiveness of U.S. producers on exports. With both Brexit and the new U.S. administration coming into office in January 2021, there are high expectations the U.S. and EU will find resolution on trade differences resulting in elimination of import tariffs. However, there is currently too much uncertainty to pinpoint when or if this will happen. We hope discussions will advance in the first half of 2021.

Perhaps most importantly, whole pulse ingredients and pulse-based protein ingredients are increasingly in demand as food and beverage makers vie to develop innovative products that meet consumer demands for taste, nutritional quality, and environmental sustainability. Although yellow pea protein and chickpea protein ingredients are leading in the current market, these products are creating new categories like meat and dairy alternatives. As consumer interest continues to evolve, these ingredients will be the gateway to push food makers to continue innovating with other pulse ingredients like dry beans. The key to their success will be having the right balance of competitive cost, functional performance and great taste.

 

GPC: On that subject, what are some of ADM’s most popular value-added pulse products and could you give us a sneak peek of what is in the pipeline for 2021?

Travis: Great question. There is certainly a lot to talk about given the momentum in plant-based everything from snacks to meat-alternatives. One product we are excited about is the inclusion of our VegeFullTM bean ingredients in pulse-based chips. VegeFullTM is the family brand representing several types of functional pulse ingredients proprietary produced by ADM including navy, black, chickpea, and yellow pea. The ingredients are a premium to raw milled ingredients but solve many taste and functional hurdles food developers historically have encountered working with pulses.

In the meat-alternative space, we’ve commercialized two very exciting products we will be bringing to market in 1H of 2021 including a textured pea protein/chickpea piece and a textured pea protein/navy bean piece. These products give developers a clean label, allergen free solution to creating meat-like textures without sacrificing taste. 

These are just a couple of examples of how we’re finding complimentary functional and nutritional profiles between wholesome ingredients, including dry beans and pulses and core proteins.

 

GPC: Thank you, Travis, for taking the time to answer our questions. I am sure many of our members would love to learn more about ADM’s dry bean products. What is the best way to do that?

Travis: We are looking forward to collaborating with GPC members and to ensure we direct interest to the appropriate team we have a centralized site which can be found at: https://www.adm.com/contact-us/edible-beans-bean-ingredients.

 

Trade Talk with Travis Green: What the New Year May Bring for the U.S. Dry Bean Industry
Trade Talk with Travis Green: What the New Year May Bring for the U.S. Dry Bean Industry
Trade Talk with Travis Green: What the New Year May Bring for the U.S. Dry Bean Industry

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Travis Green / ADM / USA

Disclaimer: The opinions or views expressed in this publication are those of the authors or quoted persons. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Global Pulse Confederation or its members.