Region Nine Development Commission looks for solutions in food and beverage manufacturing capacity challenges

MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) – An agriculture group now finds an apparent lack of capacity for growing Minnesota food and beverage manufacturers to expand when they are ready.

That finding from the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute has prompted a new study from the Region Nine Development Commission to understand what the problems are and what can be done to solve them, according to Region Nine Community and Business Development Specialist Shawn Schloesser.

Region Nine said that if these infrastructure needs are not addressed, there is a risk of losing both the economic benefits that they provide and the possibility of attracting new businesses to the state.

“If you have a product, and you want to manufacture 1,000 of them, but the company that will do that for you will only manufacture 10,000, that gap is too hard for you to close, and so we’re looking for manufacturers that are willing to take on various sizes, the right size for your company,” Schloesser said.

Schloesser said Region Nine is hoping to make small adjustments in the state.

“Whether or not there are things that the State Legislature could do, such as adjustments to regulations,” he said.

The organization, along with AURI, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and FoodOps, are looking at various trends in their survey.

The goal is to support growth in the industry and create a positive economic impact for the state by looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by those in the sector.

“So we’re looking at the licensing portion from the state, the regulations that are in place,” Schloesser said.

Sourcing local ingredients is another trend they are looking at, something Jack Link’s in Mankato tries to do as often as possible, according to Plant Manager Richard Achtziger.

The Mankato location produces roughly 225,000 sticks a week.

As employees work behind the scenes, Achtziger is noticing trends in the industry.

“People are trying to get to the clean label, which is one of the things that we’re doing here as well. As close to pure as you can get,” he said.

Achtziger is also noticing the trend in sourcing local ingredients, something he said there are challenges with.

“It’s not always possible. As I said, it’s a tough market right now, trying to get beef in,” Achtziger said.

The survey is aiming to help mid-sized companies, particularly those with sales from $20,000 to $3 million.

But Region Nine is seeking responses from all state food and beverage manufacturers and hopes to see an increase in employment and income in all sectors tied to the industry.

They also hope manufacturers of all sizes can benefit from the data.

Achtziger said the food and beverage manufacturing industry creates a domino effect impact.

“You know, the cardboard boxes and things like that coming off the forestry industry. You’ve got the meat coming in coming off the agricultural end of it,” he said.

The survey ends on Feb. 5th.

View the KEYC video.