Taking a Chance with Corn Milling
Driven by its spirit of innovation and exploration, Cargill goes from corn industry newcomer to preferred supplier.
January 01, 2015
In May of 1967, Cargill News published a small story reading Oil Leases New Plant. The headline hinted at a game-changing plan for Cargill’s oil business: corn milling.
The timing was right. Corn oil business was in decline and corn prices were exceptionally low. Located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the new facility included state-of-the-art equipment, capable of processing 14,000 bushels of corn each day. With the equipment came a learning curve: wet corn milling was entirely different than the company’s work with soybeans and grain. It required a higher degree of engineering and close adherence to product specifications.
“Looking back, I think the most impressive thing in the first two years was how little we knew.”
— Bob Hovden, Vice President and Technical Director, Cargill Corn Milling
While corn milling wasn’t easy to learn, it offered a valuable range of product possibilities, from starches and syrups to papers and textiles. With its eager, highly motivated staff, the mill quickly surpassed expectations and processed 3.8 million bushels of corn in just nine months. By 1973, the plant was producing up to 40,000 bushels per day. The numbers were enough to convince Cargill’s leadership that corn milling deserved a business division.
Less than a decade later, a watershed moment occurred when The Coca-Cola Company changed its stance and announced plans to begin using high fructose syrup in its flagship beverage. It meant major expansion for the corn milling industry as a whole, and significant growth for Cargill when it became a main supplier in 1980.
“Coca-Cola's acceptance of high fructose corn syrup for Coke® is probably the most significant single development in the short history of the industry.”
— Gerald M. Mitchell, President, Cargill Corn Milling
Two decades later, production at the Cedar Rapids plant had increased by 550%. And today, with a network of high-producing corn mills around the world, Cargill has become a renowned expert in corn milling, able to meet customer demand for exacting, value-added ingredients and consumer products.