The mission was ambitious, and so were the three brothers who established the trade journal known today as Milling & Baking News. Now reaching its milestone 100th year, the publication launched by Samuel, David and Sanders Sosland on March 7, 1922, as The Southwestern Miller has lived up to their promises … and much more.
At the heart of this very commercial venture was an absolute commitment to the integrity of its content. This approach proved its value time after time. At first, that duty was to the millers of the southwestern United States; it would grow to encompass the whole world.
The new magazine addressed readers in a box on the cover of its Vol. 1, No. 1 issue by describing the journal’s purpose: “The Southwestern Miller will voice specifically the news of the Southwest, which, as the largest producer of flour and as the leader in the extension of wheat production, should command the attention not only of millers but of flour handlers throughout the world.”
L. Joshua Sosland, president, Sosland Publishing Co.; editor, Milling & Baking News; and editor-in-chief, Food Business News, emphasized, “Equally important was a pledge in the first issue to ‘strive for accuracy, to be fair, to be prompt and to labor unceasingly to render the service (we have) undertaken to perform.’”
Why was Kansas City such an appealing place in 1922 for a new business-to-business newspaper to serve the grain-based foods industry? Simply put, the time was ripe for the flour and grain business community and for the hard red winter wheat grown in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.
In the early 1920s, forceful economic change was blowing through wheat farms and flour mills throughout the nation. Until then, the wheat business divided itself into distinct zones with highly localized markets. Flour milled from wheat grown in the Southwest went primarily into the family flour market, while white wheat growers and millers in the Northwest (the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana) mostly sold flour to commercial bakeries. During World War I, however, the US Army took advantage of the abundant supply of lower-cost hard red winter wheat grown in Kansas and the Southwest.
“When my father and uncles started out, flour milling was the biggest industry in the US,” the late Morton Sosland, the magazine’s longtime editor-in-chief, told a biographer in 2008. “More than half of all flour milled in the US went into the family flour market. That changed after World War I, when home baking began its long decline. Southwestern mills were forced to find a new business among commercial customers and industrial bakers.”
“I believe the reason that the southwestern mills represented such an opportunity to the Soslands was because those mills perceived an increasingly pressing need for new markets,” Josh Sosland said. Family flour was mostly a local affair, and its millers marketed it like any other retail packaged food: through local newspaper advertising.
“They didn’t need business-to-business publications,” Josh Sosland said. “That changed after World War I with the decline in home baking.”
Although plenty of publishers covered milling, none addressed the specific issues of interest to mills in the Southwest and the hard red wheat grown there.
The Sosland brothers, two of them fresh out of World War I military service, had found positions as reporters covering grain markets for several Kansas City and St. Louis area publications. Emmet Hoffman, head of The Kansas Flour Mills Corp., the largest milling company in Kansas, buttonholed the three brothers at a regional millers’ meeting and made the case that millers in the Southwest deserved their own journal.
“Mr. Hoffman recognized the Soslands as knowledgeable about grain and milling,” said Neil Sosland, executive editor, markets, Milling & Baking News. His father and uncles had been thinking about creating a publishing business of their own. They considered several fields, including banking and financial markets. “But flour milling is the one that suited them best,” he observed.
The Southwestern Miller’s first issue carried a folio of 36 pages and 106 ads, printed in what would today be considered tabloid format: 10½ by 13½ inches. Its masthead listed only three names: David N. Sosland, editor and manager; Samuel Sosland, managing editor; and Sanders Sosland, associate editor. It also listed a subscription price of $2 per year in the United States, Cuba and Mexico. The remainder of the world could get it for $3 per year. Single copies were 10¢.
The magazine was launched with regular columns about “Markets of the Southwest,” “The Central States,” “Markets of the East,” “The Week on Millfeed Markets,” “Transportation,” “Southern States,” “Cotton, Jute & Burlap” and “The Flour Tribunal” with columnists who covered transportation and legal matters.
Neil Sosland added, “The reader that the founders envisioned was a small local flour mill that dealt only with customers in the local area. Subsequently, because this magazine also dealt with bakers, we did expand to baking and feed milling.”
The magazine was launched with a tight regional focus, but as Josh Sosland said, “Even at the start, the editors noted the importance of keeping abreast of global issues. They declared, ‘The Southwestern Miller will not be provincial. No miller and no individual or organization can succeed if provincial in any branch of the milling business, where it is constantly necessary to cope with world trade factors.’”
Market analyses have always been the magazine’s mainstay, but also appealing were the many “Notes” in the form of personal references to industry leaders, most of which grew out of their visits to the editorial offices. When Morton Sosland became the chief editor, the opinion columns he wrote titled “Peregrinations” — brief editorials, often light or personal in nature — served a similar purpose.
Convention coverage was a constant from the start, as were regular reports on new and pending federal legislation and regulations, and international markets. Covering financial results of public companies became an early hallmark.
“Government always has played a great role in US agriculture and food industries and, thus, in our magazine,” said Jay Sjerven, senior editor, markets, Milling & Baking News and Food Business News. “Some would argue too great a role.”
His beat also covers Washington news.
“But no matter whether helpful or frustrating, what government does is important, as it manages trade and farm policy and sets the rules of the road for food manufacturers,” he said. “The editors of The Southwestern Miller certainly understood this from the get-go, reporting on directions and government policy with an eye to what flour milling executives simply had to know.”
Recognition was a big part of the Sosland brothers’ publishing strategy.
“Sam and his brothers were strong believers in putting peoples’ names into the magazine, noting how much readers liked that,” Morton Sosland wrote in 2008, “but spelling the name right and getting the correct title and company name were also important.”
Josh Sosland added, “The mission of Milling & Baking News hasn’t changed much. We take it to be: to provide important, timely, accurate and actionable information to the grain-based foods industry.
“It’s true that the magazine initially was aimed at serving the milling industry of the Southwest. Today, we serve the entire grain-based foods industry with Milling & Baking News and the entire food industry with our sister publication Food Business News.”
Even though the magazine charged its readers for their subscriptions, advertising helped pay the bills from the beginning.
“A big part of the success of my father and uncles was the ability to bring in advertising, even the ‘inch’ ads,” Neil Sosland said. “It had to be a combination of revenue from subscriber and advertiser to make this publication work.”
Of all the companies advertising in 1922 only two operate under the same name today: Commerce Bank, Kansas City, and Shawnee Milling Co., Shawnee, Okla. Shawnee Milling continues as a family business, now run by the third and fourth generations. Although publicly owned since 1975, Commerce Bank still draws its key executives from the Kemper family who owned the bank when The Southwestern Miller was launched.
While folks named Sosland shaped the magazine’s first 50 years, as the company grew it came to rely on more and more staff drawn from outside the family. Three such individuals who most affected Milling & Baking News’ direction were Mel Sjerven, Gordon Davidson and Mark Sabo.
In 1968, Morton Sosland invited Mel Sjerven, then a Minneapolis-based stringer with 17 years of reporting for The Southwestern Miller, to move to Kansas City in a larger role. He became the first full-time editor hired outside the family. Even after he retired in 1990, he continued to contribute to Sosland projects, coordinating speakers for the Purchasing Seminar, held annually in June.
“Mel Sjerven was recognized as a great friend to the flour milling industry and, in fact, was a great friend to many individual millers,” said his son, Jay Sjerven, who joined the company in 1981. “His strong personal relationships with milling executives brought both great accuracy and richness to market reporting. His objectivity and discretion were respected and valued by all.”
Mr. Davidson, a veteran newspaper reporter and editor, was hired in 1972 as an associate editor and special project manager of Milling & Baking News. He became managing editor of the magazine in 1986.
“Gordon set a good example for us.” Josh Sosland recalled. “Even in the middle of a crisis, he remained calm and laid-back, always getting the job done.”
During its first half century, magazine advertising was sold primarily by Dave Sosland. On recommendation from the Millers’ National Federation (MNF), the brothers hired Jerry A. Machalek in 1968 as assistant editor. He was assistant to the publisher from 1972 to 1978. He established a professional advertising sales staff, which included Mark Sabo. He became well-recognized for his influence in the milling and baking fields, earned during his years as the magazine’s chief sales executive.
“What I appreciated most about Mark Sabo was his willingness to embrace history but also to look forward, to develop, nurture and expand Milling & Baking News and the company into new areas, as when we launched World Grain and later Food Business News,” said G. Michael Gude, publisher, Milling & Baking News, Food Business News and Baking & Snack. “He was able to recognize trends and take advantage of them, thus well-nurturing the legacy product. He did both with so much tenacity.”
Mr. Sabo rose to assistant publisher in 1980 and to president and publisher of Milling & Baking News in 1986 before his retirement in 2015.
Both Josh Sosland, who succeeded Mr. Sabo as company president, and Mr. Gude, who followed Mr. Sabo as Milling & Baking News publisher, described him as crucial to the development of the magazine and company.
Josh Sosland noted specifically, “Mark was a force helping lead us beyond being a one-title publishing company. Working with Morton, Mark led Milling & Baking News into its role as the incubator for Baking & Snack, World Grain and Food Business News, magazines that greatly expanded the company’s horizons.”
For most of the magazine’s first 50 years, it and Sosland Publishing Co. were synonymous. Only during the 1970s, did management consider adding new titles to the company’s portfolio.
Change is a constant in a field whose economic size places it at the top of the food processing industry, rivaled only by the meat and dairy sectors. Josh Sosland described the themes and events that shaped Milling & Baking News over the past 100 years: Industry consolidation, something that continues to the present day among bakers and their suppliers; the New Deal that launched increasing government involvement in business through burgeoning regulations; the Russian Wheat Deal of the early 1970s; the disastrous Atkins Diet; the health-and-wellness trend now dominating consumer foods; and the growing importance of foodservice as commercial baking’s customer. Of course, the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic also have shaped business conditions for Milling & Baking News readers.
The first two decades of The Southwestern Miller were marked by huge changes in both flour milling and baking, and it so happened that Kansas City was central to many of these.
During this period, Sam Sosland scored a major scoop on his competitors by writing a weekly series profiling the leaders of America’s grain, milling and baking companies — a “Who’s Who” of industry leaders.
The years of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, starting in 1929, brought drought and economic problems to grain farmers and government controls over markets. They also prompted creation of the Daily News Card and, later, the “Sosland Says” commentary published daily by Reuters into the late 1980s.
In 1938, the foundational Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act was passed, establishing the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And a year later, in 1939, the Federal Standards of Identity were created.
In the run up to World War II, the magazine reported how hostilities in Europe affected US wheat futures and that wheat exports were restricted by submarine warfare and blockade.
America entered the war, and patriotism entered advertising messages. The Southwestern Miller published its first cover printed in more than black with red with the issue of July 4, 1942, that showed the US flag inked in red and blue.
The military draft initiated in 1940 found widespread malnutrition among potential soldiers. Thus, in 1943, supported by the nation’s nutritionists, War Food Order No. 1 mandated enrichment of white bread and flour with B vitamins and iron as a temporary measure. Extending enrichment into peacetime ignited a bitterly fought battle, but the MNF and the American Bakers Association (ABA) supported this effort. And so did The Southwestern Miller.
The war era saw further erosion in home baking. Commercial bread accounted for 85% of consumption by the end of World War II; it was just 50% the year the magazine was founded.
Home from military service, Morton Sosland resumed his studies at Harvard College. He joined the magazine staff in 1947. In 1952, Neil Sosland, who had recently graduated from Harvard and was working for the family company, was drafted to serve in the army during the Korean War. He returned to the magazine two years later.
As post-war tensions rose between former allies: the United States and the USSR, The Southwestern Miller reported that flour from Kansas was included in the Berlin Airlift to overcome the Soviet blockade of the German capital. This was also the era that saw big changes in flour handling technology, specifically the use of pneumatic conveying and the shift to bulk shipping of flour and other ingredients.
But mostly, the late 1940s and 1950s were an era of unprecedented prosperity. Milling did well during the war and afterward as long as the Marshall Plan was in force. Flour production peaked in 1945 at 227 million cwts and was only 203 million three years later. As flour production tumbled, there was a cascade of flour mill closings.
During this time, bakers developed national consumer brands.
In the 1950s, the grain exchanges at Chicago and Minneapolis moved trading to a five-day week from six, and Kansas City soon followed. Nevertheless, the magazine kept to its six-day work schedule, finalizing its market and commerce columns over the weekend.
The continuous dough making process was introduced in a presentation to MNF and dually reported by The Southwestern Miller. This method would come to dominate bakery production for the next quarter century.
Corporate consolidation and more productive technology led the number of milling facilities to drop to 803, according to 1954 Census of Manufacturers issued by the Bureau of the Census. This was a loss of 35% from the 1,243 locations reported in 1947. Census figures, issued every five years, provided a statistical picture of American manufacturing, detailing the number of locations, employees, purchased supplies, packaging used, goods produced and more. Analysis of the Census data about the bread, cake, cookie and cracker industries became Mr. Davidson’s special reporting beat and a mainstay of the magazine.
Cold War conditions intensified during the 1960s, and in 1963, The Southwestern Miller reported how US longshoreman and maritime unions took it on themselves to limit Soviet Union acquisitions of US wheat to half of their requests.
Relations between the United States and the USSR continued to deteriorate during the 1960s, leading to the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and the Cuban missile crisis. When the Russian wheat crop failed in 1965, the Soviets bought wheat from Canada and Australia but not the United States, developments reported in depth by The Southwestern Miller. America’s entry into the Vietnamese War also roiled grain markets, according to the magazine’s reporters, and drove up bread prices.
This decade found consumers growing concerned about possible negative effects of food additives. The Delany Clause, a part of the Food Additives Amendment of 1958, forbade the FDA from approving the presence in foods of any substance found to cause cancer in animals or humans. Its zero-risk requirement threatened many effective mill fumigants and pesticides. Highly unpopular among processed food professionals, the clause wasn’t revoked until 40 years later when a new law removed the zero-risk provisions.
In 1968, Bakers Weekly, founded in 1904 and the major baking magazine of the day, folded, and Sosland Publishing saw the chance to shift the focus of The Southwestern Miller more to wholesale baking. Two years earlier, Bakery Production & Marketing was founded. It became a formidable competitor and was once ranked as the highest revenue-generating magazine in the business-to-business field.
In 1969, the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health took place, setting the stage for formal dietary guidelines for Americans. That year, the FDA reviewed its Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list of food additives. During the next year, the Clean Air Act went into effect, enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency. Bakers learned from the magazine how the anti-pollution law would affect bakery ovens by regulating ethanol emissions.
Dave Sosland died in 1968 and Sanders Sosland in 1970. Management of the magazine and the company passed to the second generation, Morton and Neil Sosland. Morton deepened the magazine’s international coverage and reputation, and Neil brought expertise to market reporting and enhanced coverage of the science of milling and baking.
Sam Sosland, the founding managing editor, gradually took a lesser role and withdrew from magazine work after 1970.
In 1972 on its 50th anniversary, The Southwestern Miller became Milling & Baking News. It was a change that was a long time in coming, but editors framed it as “a change in name only, albeit with considerable enthusiasm.”
The new name, according to the editorial announcement, was intended to help the magazine move beyond regional aspects. Hard red winter wheat flour, they said, needed national champions. Ownership of flour mills had long since crossed regional lines, making the Southwestern designation obsolete.
“(T)he individual, the company and also the industry that does not prepare, yes initiate change, is in effect moving backward,” observed Morton Sosland, the unnamed editorial writer.
The editorial continued: “To all intents and purposes, though, the adoption of Milling & Baking News is the capstone of many changes that gradually have been made in this magazine over the past five years or so, all with the intent of better serving breadstuffs managers. These editorial changes – new departments and features, expansion of headquarters staff and adding correspondents and new graphics inside and on the cover – all have aimed at making the ‘News’ in the name a meaningful description. … The magazine is basic reading for breadstuffs managers. The new name is suited for the exciting time ahead.”
He cited the potential “in such areas as nutrition, new products, new marketing techniques and scientific advances that communication takes on new meaning.”
Thus did the Sosland editors affirm a flexible approach to covering the changing issues that the industry faces.
“For the first 70 years, government meddling in agricultural production was as important a topic as any covered by our publication,” Josh Sosland explained. “With the decoupling of grain production and farm supports in the 1990s, this issue receded in importance. To be sure, government regulatory involvement remains a major concern, but not as much with regard to the price of agricultural commodities.
“The point is that we have a staff ready and able to adapt the news to the most pressing needs of our readership. Today that’s tight labor markets and shifting attitudes toward nutrition. We’ll be ready for whatever comes tomorrow.”
The company used the 50th anniversary to expand Milling & Baking News’ coverage, said Neil Sosland.
“That’s when the story became one of audience expansion,” he said. “And we wanted to expand to areas in which we could work. We experimented with various concepts during my father’s and uncles’ time. Now, it was up to Morton’s and my generation to execute on these ideas.”
Neil Sosland advised, further “The most important thing that continues to determine our future is our ability to change. You can’t settle into any one structure. That’s what journalism today faces.”
On the 50th anniversary of the magazine, Sam Sosland recalled, “Our aim was to be a practical publication, moved by realism and idealism.”
Indeed, things were about to heat up. On July 17, 1972, Morton Sosland took an overseas phone call from a London source who allowed himself to be named only as “John Smith.” He said he was only trying to confirm details about the pending purchase of US grains by the USSR; however, the caller revealed an amazing story. The Soviet Union’s grain importing agency, Exportkleb, was buying an astonishing 5 million tonnes each of US wheat, corn and barley in a secretive deal.
The Soviet Union, usually an international power in grain production and exporting, wanted to conceal the past two years of massive crop failures in the country’s collective farming sector. So, it negotiated the deal to hide the amounts and types of grains it planned to purchase and the names of those US exporters selling the grains.
Nearly a month of phone calls ensued before the editors decided to report the news on Aug. 4, 1972.
Secret until that moment, the Milling & Baking News report revealed what came to be known as the Russian Wheat Deal. It shook the American grain market, fueled extraordinary food inflation and rattled the US and global economy. The small one-title, Midwestern publishing company scooped even the big newspapers and financial journals based at New York, Washington and London.
The Russian Wheat Deal report raised the stature of Milling & Baking News throughout the business-to-business publishing world. It also confirmed Morton Sosland’s place among the elite in geopolitical and financial circles.
Although Morton Sosland never learned the real identity of “Mr. Smith,” he speculated his informant was likely Russian, but London’s Financial Times claimed he was an East German. The source always placed his calls to Kansas City from different European locations, and editors were never able to pry a return phone number out of him. After his Aug. 10 phone call, Morton Sosland never heard from him again.
“Morton’s reporting on the Russian deal really put us on the map,” Neil Sosland said. “A year or two later, the Wall Street Journal article about this matter brought our company into the international spotlight.”
As earth shaking as the Russian reporting was, the milling and baking industries continued to reshuffle themselves throughout the 1970s, indeed into the 21st century.
This was also the time that Mr. Sabo and Morton Sosland began to move the company beyond its single-title status. Baking Equipment Quarterly ran as a supplement to Milling & Baking News from 1979 through 1983 before becoming a freestanding magazine, later renamed Baking & Snack.
The Baking Directory & Buyer’s Guide debuted in 1974. Similar directories covering milling, international grain, retail baking, meat and poultry would follow in coming years. In 2022, a pet food buyer’s guide will be added.
The 1970s saw the introduction of more rigorous food labeling as well as open dating codes. UPC codes also were added to food labels, and all were covered by Milling & Baking News.
Charles S. Sosland, Morton Sosland’s son and the first member of the family’s third generation to join the business, came in on the Milling & Baking News sales side in 1978. He would move to London in 1982 on a one-year assignment to lead sales efforts for World Grain.
The American Institute of Baking relocated in 1978 from Chicago to Manhattan, Kan. The federal government issued its first set of dietary guidelines, which were required to be renewed and re-written every five years. It was also the year that the limits on Soviet grain buying were lifted and the year that hard white winter wheat was introduced to Kansas, the leading grower of hard red winter wheat. Plus, Sosland Publishing adopted computerized writing, editing and typesetting technologies.
The 1980s opened with another new technology: handheld computing for bakery route accounting. The era also saw the interest caught up in a peaking trend toward corporate diversification with widely varied merger activity, including the purchase by the brewer (and yeast manufacturer) Anheuser Busch of baker Campbell Taggart. Standard Brands stalked and captured Nabisco, setting off a chain of industry-shaking events later documented by the best-selling book, “Barbarians at the Gate.” The start of the decade witnessed Seaboard Allied, one of the largest companies in the milling category, divesting its domestic mills to Cargill and pursuing the poultry, pork and global milling businesses. Ralston Purina bought Continental Baking from ITT. Ward Baking and American Bakeries, two of America’s oldest baking companies, exited the business by selling their last remaining plants.
The Kansas City Board of Trade celebrated its 125th anniversary, while the Chicago Board of Trade opened the world’s largest commodity trading floor and expanded futures trading opportunities.
It was at this time that Milling & Baking News substantially increased its feature coverage, distinct from news and markets.
“Today, there are more features in the magazine than there were 75 years ago, although you could see the change coming in articles such as industry personality features written in the 1960s and 1970s,” Josh Sosland said. He joined the family company in 1983 as an associate editor.
“This trend grew during Gordon Davidson’s era,” he explained, “and it helped us compete with other industry magazines that were more feature-centric. Readers want more than news; they also want ‘big picture’ perspective and analysis.”
Another massive round of bakery plant ownership changes occurred in the 1990s. To avoid anti-trust complications, the major bakers shuffled around bakery plants like a deck of cards.
In 1998, Mexico City-based Grupo Bimbo acquired Mrs Baird’s Bakeries, laying the foundation for today’s Bimbo Bakeries USA. At the time of this first major US purchase, the Mexican company raised plenty of eyebrows among American bakers when it announced that it intended to become the largest North American baking business. A decade later, it accomplished that goal.
The nutritional qualities of food began to draw heightened attention from consumers. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the FDA jointly issued dietary guidelines and, in 1982, introduced the Food Guide Pyramid. Per capita flour consumption, which began in the early 1970s to reverse a decades long decline, experienced an acceleration in growth, and a number of milling companies added large, new, heavily automated facilities. Likewise, new bakeries were created to serve larger distribution areas, and formulating for extended shelf life (ESL) bread and cake products became the watchword that defined the 1990s.
Folic acid — known to nutrition scientists since the 1960s to greatly reduce birth defects, — was added to enrichment mandates, and birth defects dropped as predicted. In 1998, the FDA mandated that enriched grain products be fortified with folic acid. Folic acid was first allowed on Nutrition Facts food labels in 1990. It became mandatory for food labeling in 2020.
Also incorporated into food plant practices were Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) protocols for food safety. These conventions would be further enhanced when the FDA adopted enhanced food safety procedures under 2011’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The infamous Tylenol poisoning incident upped risk levels for consumer products, and the 1983 Federal Anti-Tampering Act changed the way all food and drug companies packaged their goods.
Another significant change happened in 1990 when the Nutritional Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) went into effect. The FDA could now regulate the wording of the many nutrition and health claims being put on foods, claims that were previously not allowed. It was a grain-based-foods company, Kellogg Co., that opened this Pandora’s Box. Starting in 1984, the company printed on labels for its All Bran breakfast cereals a claim implying that eating high-fiber foods such as bran cereals could reduce the incidence of several cancers. Health claims were changed again in 1997 by the Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act.
In 1997, Sosland Publishing became the first in its field to establish a presence on the internet at www.bakingbusiness.com. Jointly with its sister publication Baking & Snack, Milling & Baking News has populated the website with news ever since.
As the 20th century came to an end, so did a much-diminished Bakery Production & Marketing magazine, a competitor to Milling & Baking News and Baking & Snack. It ceased publication in 1999. Sosland acquired what few assets remained, and only the BP&M Redbook, an industry directory, and the Bakery Newsletter, now properties of Sosland’s bake platform, are still published today.
The much-feared Y2K Millennium Bug computer meltdown passed mostly without incident; however, Milling & Baking News and Sosland used the scare to update the company’s computer servers and network.
But just a year later, the very real 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington did heighten food safety concerns. These fears prompted passage of the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002. Milling & Baking News and Sosland helped sponsor the International Symposium on Agroterrorism organized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and held at Kansas City in March 2004.
Coverage of ingredients became especially prominent in the late 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. The focus was on ingredients that could provide health benefits in readers’ products. Milling & Baking News developed its Food Ingredient Solutions section to cover these matters in depth. Managed and chiefly written by Jeff Gelski, senior editor, it has become a regular feature for nearly 20 years and has changed the complexion of the magazine.
“Soy was used more frequently because of a health claim that it was granted late in the 20th century,” Mr. Gelski said. “Industry raced to find alternatives for partially hydrogenated oil, which FDA eventually banned because it contained trans fat. Natural sweeteners such as stevia came into vogue as consumers and industry sought ways to reduce sugar consumption. Milling companies such as Ardent Mills and Bay State Milling increased their offerings of whole grain flour and ancient grain flour.”
In the meantime, American consumers powered a diversification of product development. Shoppers sought out foods labeled as organic, non-GMO and “free from.” The term organic was officially defined in late 2000 by USDA National Organic Program regulations. NLEA-like labeling rules for the dietary supplement industry were spelled out by the FDA under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.
A decade later, the 2004 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) identified the eight major allergens whose presence in foods must be specifically labeled. The list was updated in 2021 with the addition of sesame.
“In the early to mid-2000s, I regularly attended the Whole Grains Council meetings when they were first getting started,” said Eric Schroeder, managing editor, Milling & Baking News and World Grain, and executive editor, Food Business News. “I remember the Whole Grain Stamp in its infancy, and today, I see it on all kinds of products.”
The new century brought additional changes to the staff of Milling & Baking News. Meyer Sosland, the son of Charles Sosland, joined as the magazine’s associate editor and millfeed market writer. Two years later, he was named managing editor of World Grain, and today, he is chief operations officer for the company.
Milling & Baking News reported the death and resurrection of Hostess Brands that occurred between 2012 and 2013. It also noted the 2019 conversion of the American Institute of Baking from a bricks-and-mortar teaching facility, research group and inspection service into a virtual business. The school held its last resident baking course in 2018 but, as AIB International, remains a comprehensive provider of food safety inspection services and educational seminars.
Merger and acquisition continued apace among bakers. The latest news involved 2021’s divestiture of all baking operations of Weston, Canada’s largest food retailer.
The magazine’s pages also described the potential for genetic enhancement of wheat. This matter has been long discussed and extensively researched but not yet implemented. While the industrial ingredient market reflects consumer uneasiness about bioengineered crops, bakers are open to hybrid wheat developed by more conventional breeding methods.
Climate change and sustainability have become serious editorial topics for Milling & Baking News. Coverage of ingredients has taken note of the impact on baking of the 2021 Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education and Research Act (FASTER).
The most immediate food-related problem reported by Milling & Baking News/Food Business News since March 2020 has been, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chain issues affect their readers, and foodservice bakers, in particular, have encountered especially difficult circumstances. Meanwhile, the magazine publisher labored hard to cope with social distancing and developing appropriate remote work procedures.
As the food industry moves into the third decade of this century, focus now falls on sustainable benefits, too.
“Organic ingredients continue to be in demand,” Mr. Gelski said. “General Mills, in a nod to regenerative agriculture and improving soil health, has invested in Kernza (the grain of a robust perennial wheatgrass developed and trademarked by The Land Institute). Multinational food companies and ingredient suppliers annually publish corporate responsibility reports that provide details on oil and palm sourcing, educating and improving the lives of farmers and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The protein category continues to evolve through plant-based meat alternatives and cellular meat.”
In 2005, Sosland Publishing introduced Food Business News and altered the publishing schedule of Milling & Baking News to run every other week alternating with the new food magazine. Initially, the two publications shared the same editorial staff. Over time, the publications have developed distinct and gradually diverging styles. As Food Business News has grown, it has added editorial team members dedicated completely to the publication.
“The whole reason to pivot to a Milling & Baking News/Food Business News combination was that we looked at the people who were attending our Purchasing Seminar and who were paying subscribers to Milling & Baking News,” Mr. Gude said. “We were getting attention from companies outside of milling and baking. And baking and milling companies were expanding beyond their original fields. Some new readers and attendees were protein-based; others were beverage companies. We also had foodservice companies and their suppliers. They were telling us by their attendance and their subscriptions that they wanted more news than they were receiving from other sources.
“Sharing the editorial staff between the two magazines was and continues to be a seamless process. We built our company on putting out a weekly magazine. The two titles compatibly feed each other.”
Over the years, the company had commissioned a number of studies, some done by Kansas City’s own Midwest Research Institute, to assess current and future positioning of Milling & Baking News and the company. Most recommended an expansion of the reader audience to encompass more of the general food industry. Over time, Mr. Sabo also urged conversion of the one-magazine company into a multi-title publisher.
Some of the diversification of the company was premised on the idea that industry consolidation ultimately would not support a magazine dedicated to grain, milling and baking. While those worries were not groundless, the value of the information provided by Milling & Baking News, the addition of the Purchasing Seminar and the distinct character of the flour-based foods industry has sustained Milling & Baking News longer than would have been suggested by many metrics when the research was done.
“And of course,” Mr. Gude said, “we are a full-function publisher, with design, circulation, advertising, marketing and business departments under one roof that collectively support all of our publications. Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic has dispersed these business functions under many remote roofs.”
Role as industry voice
During Milling & Baking News’ ascent into industry leadership, Morton Sosland provided its voice, writing most of its editorial opinion columns. These were typically unsigned, a legacy from his father and uncles. He occasionally shared this assignment with Mr. Davidson, the magazine’s managing editor. The two men were so aligned in thought and industry insight that most readers could never tell their columns apart.
Even as Morton Sosland turned over Milling & Baking News’ editorship reins to his nephew Josh Sosland, he continued to contribute editorial columns well into his 90s until shortly before his passing in 2019.
Morton Sosland has been recognized for his industry advocacy and community service many times, almost too many to count; the walls of his private conference room were lined with award statuettes, certificates, plaques and photos of industry and government notables. Among those accomplishments was his induction into the 2006 inaugural class of the Baking Hall of Fame of the American Society of Baking.
Neil Sosland received the first-ever Myron D. “Mike” Baustian Memorial Award from the Milling and Baking Division of the American Association of Cereal Chemists (now the Cereal Grains Association) and was also honored by the International Association of Operative Millers and, for his lifelong service to milling, made an honorary member of MNF — a special honor since he was never assigned to cover MNF meetings.
Shortly after he retired, Mr. Sabo also was honored by the North American Millers’ Association to recognize his contribution over the years to the association and the milling industry. On Mr. Sabo’s death in 2020, Robb MacKie, chief executive officer of the ABA, called attention to the longtime Sosland executive’s unsung role in revitalizing the flagging International Baking Industry Exposition (IBIE).
“His insights and perspectives brought the disparate industry stakeholders together to put IBIE on a path for growth and success,” Mr. MacKie said.
“Mark got us more deeply involved with IBIE and helped establish Sosland as its primary media provider,” Josh Sosland said. “That event has grown and become vitally important to the industry, and it has become important for us, too.”
“We knew what our role was in our business universe,” Neil Sosland said. “We aspired to be a class above, and people knew that about us. But we also had to keep improving our work.”
This also means improving the tools used by the magazine reporters, editors and production staff.
“It used to be that on the Monday ahead of our Tuesday publication date, we made up the magazine’s pages,” Neil Sosland explained. “First, we placed the advertising pages; then we slotted in the editorial content. Originally this was done by a secretary, and then it devolved onto the youngest editor — me at the time — for paste-up. And did we ever use a lot of paste.
“My father and uncles asked me to be part of our computerization initiative, which began around 1969 or 1970. I and our business manager Bob Neve took a computer course in California to get ready for it. I made sure I programmed that first computer so it could do the paste-up.”
The magazine’s first redesign took place in 1969 when it changed its cover and adopted a new type face. When The Southwestern Miller became Milling & Baking News in 1972, editors added a band of color to the front cover. They alternated every other week between green and gold. Further design tweaks eliminated the green and gold in 1992 and changed the logo to red. In 2021, the magazine underwent a major redesign, effective with the May 4 edition.
“Anyone familiar with Milling & Baking News and its predecessor The Southwestern Miller knows the magazines were heavy on copy, maybe a little light on design,” Mr. Schroeder said. “With the redesign in 2021, we wanted to bring the publication up to date without losing the feel of the journal aspect created 100 years ago.
“Understanding that the print publications now work hand-in-hand with the digital products we offer, I think the redesign has been a home run. Our designer, Christina Sullivan, created some fantastic, engaging covers, and the work that has breathed more life into our markets coverage has been well received.”
Like his father and uncles, Morton Sosland insisted on excellence in market reporting and didn’t hesitate to advise editors when they may have fallen short, said Josh Sosland.
“This provided great motivation to market editors to always strive to ‘measure up,’” he said.
From its very first issue, March 7, 1922, The Southwestern Miller reported both the news flour millers had to know and the market trends they had to follow in order to manage their businesses successfully.
Ingredient market reporting in Sosland publications expanded over the years to include additional commodities as the milling industry itself evolved to feature new product offerings. But the commitment to providing up-to-date market information and analysis critical to managing flour milling and other food manufacturing businesses remains.
“Market reporting is a matter of knowing names and placing phone calls, of learning how to talk to people about their business while still keeping it confidential,” Neil Sosland explained. “We also went out on the trading floor to get an immediate perspective.”
Describing the work of market reporters, Jay Sjerven said, “Neil Sosland expanded markets coverage significantly into areas such as sugar and sweeteners, bakery shortening, milk products, cocoa and egg products, ensuring these markets were reported on as accurately and professionally as those related more directly to the wheat and flour markets.”
Neil Sosland explained, “Covering sweeteners was new to the magazine at the time I joined it. We established that column as coequal with flour milling. This allowed us to get into new publications and new coverage areas. It opened the doors to move into the fields that we now cover.”
It’s the analysis that made the Sosland reputation for the integrity of its content, he said. Its importance continues despite the ease of communications afforded by the internet and its myriad sources.
“To compete, a market reporter must constantly improve the quality and depth of his analysis,” Neil Sosland said. “And if there’s a better way to do it, we should pursue that to be able to succeed. I’m continually learning.”
Market reporting by Milling & Baking News, and also Food Business News, has benefited from a straight line of mentors. Sanders Sosland set the bar early and high. He tutored his nephews, Morton and Neil Sosland, as they learned and then took over news and market coverage in the 1960s and 1970s. They were aided in this by Mel Sjerven.
“Morton, Neil and Mel ensured that high standards in market reporting were maintained as the third generation of Sosland Publishing market editors came to the fore,” Jay Sjerven said. “Their efforts largely were responsible for competitor publications to The Southwestern Miller and Milling & Baking News falling by the wayside.”
Josh Sosland added, “This same straight line of mentorship may be seen in the oversight of news. Sam Sosland was a meticulous editor who was followed by Morton and then Gordon Davidson, as managing editor. The latter role has been ably (and busily) filled for nearly 20 years by Eric Schroeder.”
Josh Sosland, who covered markets for nearly a dozen years, also helped bridge the generations of market writers, working first with Neil Sosland and then with Ron Sterk, now Milling & Baking News senior editor, markets, when he joined the company.
Mr. Sterk explained the market reporting process: “The basic reporting hasn’t changed — the key still is calling trusted sources and gathering prices and supply-and-demand information. The three had such a stellar reputation in the industry that it possibly was easier to find people who wanted to talk.”
About 10 years ago, Mr. Sterk took the initiative to propose the launch of The Sosland Sweetener Report, published on Wednesdays. It built on the sweetener coverage initiated years earlier by Neil Sosland. The weekly report provides prices, data, analysis and industry news for the US, Mexican and global cash sugar and corn sweetener markets, New York sugar futures. In addition, a brief daily update is provided.
“(The Sosland Sweetener Report) has deepened our reputation as a leading source of sweetener market information,” Josh Sosland said.
The major change in the company’s market reporting is the source of information and data.
“While key market prices and certainly quotes and analysis of the market come from our usual sources, much of what we now gather comes from the internet, especially the USDA data, but also company websites,” Mr. Sterk said. “That makes it easier sometimes but doesn’t replace an actual conversation.”
These communication changes actually make it easier for market reporters to gauge the value of their work to readers.
“They can just email you either compliments or complaints,” Mr. Sterk said. “But we also talk to subscribers and ask what they need to know and try to fill that void or enhance on the product if we’re already producing it. (The internet has) lots of metrics to illustrate how many readers are clicking on our reports, how much time they are spending on them, etc., but that’s really just the beginning of good customer feedback.”
Milling & Baking News editors don’t overlook these challenges and strive for immediacy via daily postings on the website.
“It would be disingenuous to say the internet hasn’t affected Milling & Baking News’ reporting at all, but in fact, the focus on reporting day by day rather than week by week has increased the content produced for the grain-based foods industry,” Josh Sosland said.
“We now tend to have far more content than we are able to publish in each issue of Milling & Baking News and need to think carefully about which articles are most important to include in our print edition,” he added.
The numbers and commentary are available each week to subscribers of Milling & Baking News/Food Business News.
“Numerous outlets have offered commodity prices on a more timely basis than Milling & Baking News, for decades,” Josh Sosland observed. “Our value proposition is not necessarily aimed at those who trade each and every day but is instead directed toward ingredient buyers who buy week by week, month by month in a manner aimed at managing risk and understanding overarching trends as they make purchasing plans for the month, quarter, half year or year. In addition, our coverage of millfeed and cash wheat markets remains the most in-depth of any available anywhere.”
Reader feedback always has been important to the magazine. Mr. Gude explained, “We do reader study after reader study, and we have learned that people who are Milling & Baking News readers have a real affinity for the magazine. Fully 75% of readers tell us they read every issue. That’s three out of four readers of an every-other-week magazine who read every issue, and 95% of respondents describe themselves as ‘regular’ readers.”
Ingredient buyers and suppliers, as well as leaders of grain, milling and baking companies, continue to form the core of the Milling & Baking News readership, said Josh Sosland. “Additionally, over the last quarter century, we have added research and development professionals and editorial coverage around ingredient technology to broaden the scope of our editorial in a way that gives our core readers a broad understanding of ingredient formulation trends and also meets the need of ingredient advertisers.”
The rise of digital publishing poses a conundrum to any print publication but especially to those in the business-to-business field. Milling & Baking News is no different.
“I very strongly feel the importance of becoming digitally literate,” Neil Sosland said. “In journalism today, very few publications remain in print. Many have gone completely digital. As a publishing company, we will continue to go further into internet applications. We must be one of the electronic leaders in business-to-business publishing, and we must respond to those challenges.
“As journalists, you have to keep learning new things, and that means getting savvy about technology. It’s like the change from doing long division, as Sanders did when he worked on the market pages, to using a slide rule like I did at first, to going to adding machines and then to computers. You have to always be looking for a better way to do your job.”
Milling & Baking News is at a crossroads today, said Josh Sosland.
“The industries we cover have vastly changed,” he said. “Today, the milling and baking industries businesses have largely consolidated and are highly concentrated. Family businesses were the norm in 1970. Today, they are the exception, both in milling and baking, as well as publishing.
“The grain industry was enjoying its heyday in 1970. Few standalone grain companies from that era continue to exist. Most have shut down, been acquired or turned into much more diversified companies.
“In 1970, white bread remained the dominant end use for flour, together with basic commodity cookies and cracker. White bread has been in decline ever since, perhaps with the exception of the start of COVID-19, and the end-use outlets for flour are far more diverse than was the case 50 years ago.
“As consumer tastes have become more sophisticated, with a $5 loaf of organic bread the fastest growing brand over the past five years, it’s clear that more change is coming. It’s very exciting for our readers and for us.”
Looking ahead, he said, “Milling & Baking News will need to adapt to the changing marketplace, both because of continued consolidation in the grain-based foods industry and as a paid subscription publication in a business-to-business environment in which such publications really no longer exists.”
Jay Sjerven summed up: “Each successive generation of Sosland Publishing editors must continue to provide this essential information to the food industry.”
The company’s familiar brands are refreshed with new flavors and forms.