State’s leading food companies benefit from industry talent, research institutions

DES MOINES, Iowa  (  Iowa food companies and Iowa research institutions are leading the charge to overhaul the ingredient and packaged food industries to meet the demands of consumers for healthier, wholesome food that is accessible and affordable.

“Iowa is synonymous with food, based on our heritage of feeding the world from our agricultural products, and we continue to produce more value-added products that are meeting the demands of today’s consumers,” said Bret Mills, director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development. “Iowa is truly fertile ground for the companies creating the food of tomorrow.”

The Iowa Department of Economic Development is a major sponsor and exhibitor at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting and Food Expo in Chicago this week along with more than 50 companies with facilities in Iowa.

Iowa is home to 32 of the world’s top 100 food companies, along with 40 more food packaging companies, and these companies are leading the way to produce the food of tomorrow.

  • Sethness Products Company in Clinton, the largest Caramel Color manufacturing facility in the world, launched a new caramelized sugar syrup this spring that delivers flavor, sweetness and color with one ingredient listing – sugar. This heeds consumers’ cries of ingredient overload and calls for simplified labels. It has applications in baked goods, spirits and liqueurs, high-sodium applications like soy sauce, beverages, ham glazes, meats, confectionery products and flavoring extracts.
  • Natural Products, Inc. (NPI), based in Grinnell, Iowa, continues to expand its product offering with the addition of two new food ingredients in 2010. IVORY200 Vegan Dairy Replacer allows industrial bakeries to reduce ingredients costs and address consumers’ allergy concerns by removing milk from bakery products. FELO100 Fiber-Enriched Low Fat Flour provides triple the amount of dietary fiber found in standard soy flour. Since its beginning in 1995, NPI has introduced over 25 new ingredients to the food industry. Roughly half of NPI’s total production is exported.
  • Des Moines, Iowa-headquartered Kemin Food Technologies offers FORTIUM® RGT Rosemary plus Green Tea food technologies that provide outstanding antioxidant benefits. With FORTIUM RGT, products can look great, taste delicious, and stay safe and fresh longer, since FORTIUM RGT specifically curbs lipid oxidation, delaying onset of rancidity as well as changes to color, flavor, and odor profile. Its versatile combination of green tea and rosemary complement each other with little or no impact on sensory and color profiles. The company has been in business since 1961 and now houses its world headquarters, Kemin Industries, Inc, Kemin AgriFoods North America, Kemin Health, Kemin Nutrisurance® and Kemin Food Technologies offices in Iowa.
  • Embria Health Sciences, headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa, combines science and nature to develop high-quality, research-based natural ingredients that are added to finished products. Embria’s flagship ingredient, EpiCor®, is an all-natural product that helps the body balance the immune system. Containing protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and other metabolites that deliver nutritional benefits and support immune health, clinical studies have found EpiCor’s immune-balancing properties provide year-round support by helping the body boost or suppress immune response as needed.
  • Islamic Services of America, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa since 1975, is the oldest and most globally recognized Halal services provider in North America. ISA provides on demand services in the fields of Halal slaughter of meat and poultry, food processing, flavors and ingredients, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, vaccines and cosmetics around the world. Its trademarks are globally and USDA recognized. The current global Halal consumables industry is valued at $2.3 trillion with 67 percent being spent on food, beverage, flavors and ingredients. With 1.8 billion consumers worldwide demanding Halal certified U.S. goods, ISA has witnessed a 35 percent annual increase in demand for Halal certification services. That trend is expected to continue as population centers in Asia and the Middle East continue to grow.

In 2009, Iowa exported more than $9 billion in agricultural, manufactured/value-added goods. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2,851 Iowa companies exported goods from Iowa locations in 2007. And Iowa is exporting beyond U.S. borders. In 2009, the top five importers of Iowa agricultural, value added and manufactured goods were Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany and China, according to the Global Trade Information Service.

The move toward ingredient and finished product manufacturing in Iowa shows the concentration of food industry talent, access to research and experts at education institutions and a young, technology driven work force that make Iowa a draw for new developments and existing companies’ expansions.

In addition, Iowa is training tomorrow’s workforce for the food industry. Iowa State University’s Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, headed by Dr. Ruth MacDonald, offers a combination of courses that integrate food science with nutrition down to the metabolic level . It is the leading program in the region and offers degrees that no other institution does to prepare graduates for major issues facing the U.S. food industry today, like obesity and increasing concerns that our food have a healthy balance between tasting good and providing the essential nutrients  for a healthy life.

“Careers in food science are the best kept secrets out there. Because of ISU’s strong reputation and proximity to the leading food companies in the world, most of our students have internship opportunities before graduating,” Dr. MacDonald said. “We didn’t see a decrease in job opportunities for our graduates during the economic downturn and students usually have two or three job offers to consider. It’s a path to worldwide job opportunities because most food companies have global markets.”

ISU graduates not only have a global marketplace, but Iowa’s agricultural commodities do as well. Iowa exported pork products to 32 countries and beef products to more than 23 countries in 2009. Iowa is the top producer in the U.S. of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs and produces one-tenth of the nation’s food supply. It’s the work ethic and productivity of the Iowa farmer that led the state to its international status as a food and ingredient manufacturer today.

Follow the latest news from the Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) on Twitter (@FoodinIowa) and Facebook ( before and during the IFT Annual Meeting and Food Expo 2010. Also, stop by IDED’s pavilion (Booth 3621) to visit with representatives from IDED and more than 15 other Iowa food companies out of more than 50 exhibiting at the EXPO. For more information visit

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