The Hebei roller mill in Daming County, near the eastern city of Handan, is situated in one of the world’s biggest wheat-producing regions. The plant is among the most advanced roller mills operated by the world’s largest flour manufacturer, the Wudeli Flour Group. Rows of enclosed Bühler machines operate in a dust-free environment overseen by just three operatives in any single shift. Each day more than 5,100 tons of flour leave the plant for the Hebei, Beijing and Northeast region’s restaurants and steamed bun shops producing the flour-based delicacies that make up China’s most- eaten staple foods.
By any standards, the growth of Wudeli Flour Group from a family mill to a global manufacturer in just 30 years is impressive. Zhiguo Dan was just 17 when he opened his first mill with his sister, brother, and father in 1989. Today, he is president of a company that operates 19 plants with a daily wheat processing capacity of 45,000 tons. Under existing expansion plans, daily output is set to rise to 80,000 tons a day in the coming years, sufficient to supply one-third of China’s flour needs.
Zhiguo Dan acknowledges that this sort of growth was only possible under China’s recent policy of economic reform. But he believes it is also a result of some core values being established early on: “2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of Wudeli. Over the past three decades, we have been focusing on one thing: making the best flour.”