Cigi training in South America enhances customer support, relationships

By Ellen Goodman

Cigi's Shona Temple and Kristina Pizzi (second from right and far right) discuss analytical methods with staff from Molino El Lobo in Bogota, Colombia.

Cigi’s Shona Fraser and Kristina Pizzi (second from right and far right) discuss analytical methods with staff from Molinos el Lobo in Bogota, Colombia. The company mills about 10,000 tonnes of Canadian wheat per month.

Cigi technical staff recently travelled to South America for the third consecutive year to offer customers of Canadian wheat and durum training on analytical techniques and processes to assess wheat and flour quality.

The three staff, two from Analytical Services and one from Milling Technology, hosted a seminar in Chile in January for a group of nine milling companies that buy Canadian wheat from an local importer, and then made presentations at four mills. The two days were followed by another two days in Colombia where staff made presentations to milling and laboratory staff at three milling companies.

“These visits give Cigi staff an opportunity to establish working relationships with staff from quality related areas in milling or quality control laboratories in companies that purchase and process Canadian wheat or durum into flour or semolina,” says Kristina Pizzi, Manager, Cigi Analytical Services. “This allowed for discussion to help reduce the incidence of customer concerns about wheat quality that may result from differences in analytical techniques and to put a face to any assistance they may need from us in future.”

Juan Carlos Arriola, Technical Specialist, Milling Technology at Cigi, says that personal contact goes a long way when conducting business. Originally from Guatemala, Juan Carlos worked with milling companies there and in Dominican Republic for a number of years.

“Latin America is different in that they buy from you if they trust you, even if what you are selling is more expensive (than a competitor’s). It is important that you meet face-to-face, give good advice, and that they feel you care about them. When we were there they appreciated our presentations, and that we were available to help and share our experience on how we do things.”

The seminar and company visits proved successful in their aim to educate millers and laboratory staff on the tests used to evaluate wheat and flour quality and why they are done, says Kristina. “It’s important that they know how to interpret the results properly which will help eliminate some quality issues in future. They’ll definitely know how we do testing here and it will be easier to compare our results so if there is any deviation it will be easier to address.”

In both countries presentations covered the alveograph, consistograph, moisture, ash, kernel hardness, starch damage, protein quality, colour, falling number, farinograph, and mixolab. Customers asked a wide range of questions that covered topics such as sprout damage, mildew, the impact of falling number on cookie production, how lab results relate to baking process, and gluten index.

“There are a couple of things we hoped to achieve from this training,” Kristina says. “Of course we hope that these customers will continue to buy Canadian wheat. But, as importantly, we wanted them to  understand if they have an issue or question about what they are doing they can contact us at any time. So they know they have that after-sales support.”