Food Market brings news, talk and insight into the food business, from farms to supermarkets to restaurants. Reporters Mike Hughlett and Tom Meersman delve into the work of Minnesota’s food companies and issues such as food safety and labeling.

Is Wisconsin the Dairy State?

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: September 19, 2014 - 4:41 PM

Not if we’re counting cows and milk production.

The latest USDA report on milk indicates that California produced about 3.5 million pounds of milk in August, compared to second-place Wisconsin’s 2.3 million pounds.

The next two ranking states are California and Florida.

Minnesota ranks eighth on the list at 764,000 pounds, just behind Michigan.

Is Idaho still famous for its Potatoes? 

Yes, by a long shot.

Another USDA report this week said that Idaho’s fall potato production was 131 million hundredweight in 2013, well ahead of second place Washington’s 96 million hundredweight.

Minnesota ranked sixth at 17.3 million hundredweight, with 45,000 acres of potatoes harvested.

The report estimated that the total value of Minnesota’s potato crop in 2013 was nearly $165 million.

CHS goes Down Under

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: September 18, 2014 - 12:12 PM

CHS, a global energy, grains and foods company and the nation’s largest member-owned cooperative, has acquired a 50% share in an Australian firm to increase shipments of Australian wheat to the Asia-Pacific region.

CHS, headquartered in Inver Grove Heights, purchased Broadbent Grain, a third-generation agricultural supply chain management company located in Queensland and Victoria.

CHS officials said investing in Broadbent will expand grain storage, handling and logistical expertise to deliver Australian wheat via shipping containers to customers across the Asia-Pacific region.

The partnership is effective Oct. 1, and the company name and brand will remain Broadbent Grain.

Positive Crop Forecast for Corn and Soybeans

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: September 12, 2014 - 10:06 AM

Minnesota corn and soybean harvests are expected to be better than in 2013, according to the latest monthly crop forecasts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Late spring weather made it difficult for some farmers to plant as early as they wanted, and heavy rains washed out crops in localized areas.

But overall corn production in the state is forecast to be 4 percent higher than 2013 at 1.36 billion bushels, and average yields will jump from 160 bushels per acre last year to 170 bushels per acre in 2014.

Soybean production is estimated at 312 million bushels, up 15 percent from last year with average yields of 42 bushels per acre.

Minnesota farmers are growing corn on 8 million acres this year and soybeans on 7.42 million acres, according to the report.

Sugarbeet production is expected to be 8 percent lower than 2013 at 10.1 million tons. Yield is expected to be 23.3 tons per acre this year, about 2.7 tons per acre less than in 2013.

Farmers are growing sugarbeets on 435,000 acres.

The forecasts are based on Sept. 1 conditions, and may change due to weather and other factors before the crop production estimates are updated next month.

Apples Galore

Posted by: Tom Meersman Updated: September 11, 2014 - 3:52 PM

Apple harvest has swung into full gear, and more than 100 Minnesota orchards are now open for public sales and apple picking.  

Charlie Johnson, President of the Minnesota Apple Growers Association, said the 2014 crop is excellent for most producers. A few varieties are ripening slightly later than usual due to the late spring, he said, so consumers may want to call orchards in advance to be sure which apples are ripe at any given time.

Minnesota is known for apple varieties specially bred for northern climate, including University of Minnesota cultivars such as Zestar!, Honeycrisp, SweeTango, Haralson and Sweet Sixteen.

Many pick-your-own orchards also sell fall raspberries, pumpkins and other produce, and offer family activities such as hayrides and crop mazes.

For more information, consult the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown Directory online at www.minnesotagrown.com.

General Mills brings pop-up "Helper" store to Dinkytown

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: September 10, 2014 - 10:41 AM

General Mills is bringing the pop-up retail concept to Dinkytown Friday, an effort to spotlight Helper, the dinner mix formerly known as Hamburger Helper.

The Helper Hut will be open at Annie’s Parlour, 313 14th Ave. SE from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from 12 a.m. to 2 a.m. During those hours, patrons can get free Helper meals, including Cheeseburger Macaroni, Crunchy Taco and Four Cheese Lasagna – while supplies last.

Customers can also customize their Helper meals with several different free options, including onion, bacon, cheese, sour cream and guacamole.

Golden Valley-based General Mills has long dominated the dry dinner mix category with Hamburger Helper, which has also come in chicken and tuna varieties. But sales in that category have been weak in recent years.

So in 2013, General Mills revamped the brand, bolstering its chicken offerings – a reflection of chicken’s popularity – and combing sauce pouches with the traditional dry mix and pasta. Mills officially rechristened the product just plain “Helper,” and has upped its promotional activities.

It’s been tough sledding since the re-launch, though. Dry dinner mix sales were down 10 percent from June 2013 to June 2014, according to IRI, a market researcher. However, at least Mills didn’t lose any market share during that time to a rival dinner mix product made by Kraft Foods.

A good year for Minnesota's sweet corn and pea crops

Posted by: Mike Hughlett Updated: September 5, 2014 - 2:47 PM

Minnesota’s sweet corn and green pea crops are looking good this year, with production of both expected to increase.

Production of sweet corn for processing is expected to climb 6 percent in 2014 to 847,530 tons, according to data released Friday by the United States Department of Agriculture. Annual pea output is forecast to rise 4 percent to 91,379 tons.

Minnesota is the nation’s largest producer of sweet corn, and it’s second only to Washington in peas. The two vegetables make their way from farms in Minnesota’s south and southeast into frozen food and canned good aisles across the country.

Seneca Foods, North America’s leading provider of packaged fruits and vegetables, has five plants in southern Minnesota, and corn and beans are their mainstay. Marion, N.Y.-based Seneca owns the Libby’s brand, but it also packs Green Giant vegetables for that big brand’s owner, General Mills.

Sweet corn acreage in Minnesota is actually down 1.5 from last year, but yields are expected to be up almost 8 percent, according to the USDA. The opposite is at work in peas, with yields down about 5 percent, but acreage up 10 percent.

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