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Jon Knutson, Published October 26 2009

Preserving their identity

Fargo-based SK Food International is a matchmaker.

It supplies food and pet food manufacturers worldwide with “identity-preserved,” or IP, beans, grains, flours and oils.

IP food is segregated and handled separately from food grown for mass markets, allowing IP users to know how and where the food was grown.

SK Food handles IP conventionally grown foods, non-GMO (genetically modified organism) foods and certified organic foods.

GMO refers to plants that have genes implanted to improve their performance by making them resistant to pesticides, diseases or insects.

SK Food is a Non-GMO Project verified company. The Non-GMO Project was created by the organic and natural products industry to provide consumers with food that isn’t genetically modified.

SK Food works with farmers in the region and on the East and West coasts. Farmers on the coasts make it simpler, logistically, to supply customers in Asia and Europe.

The company employs 14 people at its Fargo headquarters, 4666 Amber Valley Parkway. There are 10 full-time employees, as well as temporary/part-time workers, at its processing plant at 4210 Highway 75 N., Moorhead.

SK Food was founded in 1990 in Wahpeton, N.D., by David and Beverly Skyberg. They continue to own the company, which moved to Fargo in 2001.

The Forum talked with their son, Aaron, who works in sales and marketing for the company.

Q: IP can mean slightly different things to different people. How do you define it?

A: It’s two separate things as we look it.

One is by a grower’s lot. We have a segregation of a grower’s lot from receiving the product to our processing facility. So the food manufacturer is able to trace it all the way back to the grower’s production.

There’s also another identity preserved out there where we try to stay above our competitors.

This is where we have identity preserved by soybean variety, variety specific.

Why is identity preserved important to your customers?

It’s really about security, food safety, these days. Food manufacturers want to know where the food came from, who the grower is.

You sell both nationally and internationally. What percent of your sales come abroad?

Initially when we were founded we were 100 percent export. Now we’re about 50-50 domestically and internationally.

Has the global economic slump affected your business?

No, it has been stable. Food safety is still the No. 1 concern for a lot of consumers and food manufacturers.

What’s the value of being a Non-GMO Project verified company?

More consumers are now demanding that product be non-GMO verified.

There’s just a lot of unknowns about GMO. There are a lot of horror stories out there about GMO being unsafe for human consumption.

So demand has increased for non-GMO production.

Would readers recognize any of the companies that buy your food?

There’s a lot of food stores where you’ll see (products from) our customers. (Skyberg declined to identify any by name.)

Does your company sell products to individual consumers?

We have a lot of calls from people who want to buy a 50-pound bag here or there. Unfortunately, we can’t service those.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530