Red River Commodities, a Fargo, North Dakota based company, has operated a bird seed plant in Lubbock since 1995. And currently, with the partnership of Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and South Plains Workforce, a second division of the company has opened on the South Plains. SunGold Foods has brought its most state of the art technology to Lubbock in the form of a consumer-based sunflower seed processing plant.
"SunGold Foods is a processing facility that will take in-shell sunflower seeds, roast it, salt it, flavor it, package it for various customers, and then distribute it for direct consumer use," Bob Majkrzak said.
The snack foods produced at SunGold Foods will be available to consumers throughout the United States as well as international markets. Bob Majkrzak, President and CEO of Red River Commodities, said that they contract sunflower crops with several area and regional producers, as well as other farmers throughout the entire southern growing region, ranging from Kansas to Texas.
"When we contract with those farmers, we have them grow a specific, high-grade seed for us," Majkrzak said. "And that is what we bring into our processing facilities, clean them, sort them, and get them prepared so that they can go into snack food companies like SunGold Foods."
Lubbock's central location and major interstate access makes it ideal for state-wide transport, which will bring sunflowers to the local plant from more than five states.
"We consider the southern growing region starting from kind of the Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado area down into Texas. It just so happens that Lubbock, as far as we're concerned, is right in the heart of what we refer to as our southern growing region. In Texas, we'll grow sunflowers from the Rio Grande Valley all the way up to the Lubbock area," Majkrzak said.
SunGold Foods has implemented the most up to date technology into their plant, including temperature and roasting control, moisture and salt content control, and of course, the highest standards in food safety. The plant also adds stability to the agriculture infrastructure that completes the food production circle.
"The new plant here gives stability to that crop," Majkrzak said. "I think a lot of times farmers will look at it to see if it's a specialty crop and if the crop is going to stick around. By making an investment into specialized planting and specialized harvest equipment, etc, will I have a market year after year? What this really does is proves that there's stability to this market place. I think growers will certainly look at that as a positive attribute."
Red River Commodities and SunGold Foods maintains that their relationships with ag producers are the priority for delivering the highest quality end product possible.
"On the human food side of it, because it is extremely particular, what the farmer grows in his field, the farmer really can see ends up in that package," Majkrzak said. "So the quality that he produced is exactly the quality that is represented in our final product."
SunGold Foods made an initial total capital investment of $11.5 million to open the state of the art plant. This operation will facilitate 40 new jobs upon opening, and is projected to add an additional 65 jobs over the next five years totaling $3.3 million in new salaries and an annual economic impact of $17.5 million.