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Published August 09 2013

Keeping it real: SK Food deals in organics, non-GMOs

FARGO – SK Food International’s first customer was in Japan.

Not only does the company still have that customer, David Skyberg said they’re “still selling them that same product.”

“You know, the first couple of years were pretty lean, to be honest,” said Skyberg, who owns the Fargo-Moorhead-based company with his wife, Beverly. “But after we made that first sale, we knew it was going to go.”

And it has.

SK Food, which was founded in 1990 in Wahpeton, ships organic, non-genetically modified and gluten-free bulk food ingredients such as grains, flours, oils and more across the U.S. and internationally. The company contracts with growers in the region for a majority of what it handles.

Organic foods are raised without the use of synthetic chemicals or genetic modification.

One of the cornerstones of the SK Food model is identity preservation, which, according to the company website, “refers to a system of production, handling and marketing practices that maintains the integrity and purity of agricultural commodities.”

SK Food doesn’t allow a given lot of seed – or other bulk food item – to be mingled with other lots, and it maintains the traceability of the foods it supplies by tracking the source

The end game is food safety, said Aaron Skyberg, David and Beverly’s son who works in business development for SK Food. Noting the e. coli and salmonella food contamination in recent years, he said there’s a growing desire in the market to know where food is coming from.

SK Food supplies ingredients to manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors that are used in products ranging from cereal bars to tofu, and pet food to baby food.

The company has come a long way from the early days when David and Beverly ran the show by themselves. Today, SK Food has 16 employees. Another nine work at its sister business in Moorhead, SK Food Specialty Processing, which is a processing facility.

“I think that we’ve been keeping pace with what’s going on in the organic and non-GMO sector of the food market,” David Skyberg said. Annual growth in that market has been in the double digits, he said.

The Department of Agriculture, citing the Nutrition Business Journal, says organic food sales in the United States have increased from an estimated $11 billion in 2004 to $27 billion in 2012. According to an October 2012 release from SPINS, an information and service provider for the Natural and Specialty products industry, “expansion of Non-GMO verified products on shelf has resulted in $2.4 billion sales during the past 52 weeks – an 85 percent increase over the $1.3 billion the previous year.”

“The market has changed dramatically,” Aaron Skyberg said.

“Consumers are just becoming more aware, maybe more health conscious, of what they’re putting in their bodies,” he said.

David Skyberg credits SK Food’s success to more than just the market. He points to the way SK Food does business by exceeding customers’ expectations, constantly striving to improve and building relationships.

“We just don’t sell products,” Skyberg said. “We build relationships with customers, suppliers, producers.”

SK Food sales continue to increase, but it’s not strictly business for David Skyberg. He also feels good about supplying food he believes in.

“It just makes you feel good at the end of the day that you’re in an industry that you’re supplying organic, non-GMO because there’s less chemicals involved, less insecticides, pesticides used,” he said.

Aaron Skyberg echoed those sentiments.

“When we sell a product, whatever that product may be, we know we’re selling a healthy, good-for-you product and we’re passionate about doing that,” he said. “We sleep great at night.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734