Staff Directory 276895091

Kristen Leigh Painter

Reporter | Food industry
Phone: 612.673.4767
Location: Minneapolis
Other languages: None

Kristen Leigh Painter covers the food industry for the Star Tribune. She previously covered growth and development for the paper. Prior to that, Painter was a business reporter at the Denver Post, covering airlines and aerospace. She frequently writes about sustainable food production, consumer food trends and airlines.


Painter has had a diverse reporting career, interviewing dignitaries in Tokyo, rebel leaders in Sudan and slaughterhouse workers in Nebraska. She has a master's of arts in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder and bachelor of science degree in history from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, daughter and an energetic Labrador retriever named Luna. In her free time, Painter likes to run, read fiction and plan her family's next trip or outdoor adventure.
Recent content from Kristen Leigh Painter
Traditional trees of the Cerrado ecosystem in Brazil, known as the Brazilian savanna,which are being cleared to grow crops.

Environmentalists put more pressure on Cargill to slow forest-to-farm movement in Brazil

Ag giant falls short in goal to halt clearing of land in Brazil.
Cargill endured a difficult spring as farmers grappled with weather challenges, Chinese demand for animal feed plunged amid a hog-killing epidemic and

Trading turbulence, swine disease in China slammed Cargill's profit this spring

Man-made and natural troubles mounted for the giant food processor and trader.
Sun Country is lowering fees for changing flight reservations and dropping them altogether if a change happens 60 days or more before travel.

Sun Country gives its passengers some good news: Lower change fees

There will be no charge if a passenger makes a switch 60 days before departure.
YQ by Yoplait is one of the product lines that General Mills has produced that arrested a decline in yogurt sales. The company will relabel the produc

General Mills tries to turn yogurt, once its biggest problem, into a plus again

General Mills said it plans to keep its foot on the accelerator in yogurt, a business where the company has slowed its declines but now…
General Mills revealed new details of its Carnivora line of Blue Buffalo pet foods, along with other new products, on Monday.

In General Mills' latest product rollout, new Blue Buffalo line gets a push

Blue Buffalo's Carnivora pet food joins Yoplait smoothie, blueberry Cheerios among new products.
Executives at Golden Valley-based General Mills started refocusing on growth about two years ago.

As mega-takeovers fade in food industry, General Mills strategy emerges as winner

Minnesota food giant pivoted at the right time.
A Sun Country Airlines jet takes off from Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport MSP.

Sun Country apologizes for no notification about canceled flights

It was the first real-time test for the customer communication system that should've been automatic.
Delta later this year will offer "welcome cocktails" and other new amenities to passengers on all international flights exceeding 6.5 hours.

Bellinis and chocolates: Delta adds a touch of first class to economy on longer flights

The expanded services are a bid to distinguish it from competing airlines.
The first direct Aer Lingus flight from Dublin landed at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. It received a water canon welcome from the Airpor

Aer Lingus flight from Dublin arrives, giving MSP a new competitor on European flights

Nonstop service between MSP and Dublin will connect important business markets
Aer Lingus will initially use a 757 to fly between the Twin Cities and Dublin but will likely turn to the A330, shown here, next year.

Everything you need to know about Aer Lingus, MSP's new international carrier

The flag carrier of Ireland will offer direct flights between the Twin Cities and Dublin.
Juan Diaz checks out the bathroom window in the new Delta A220.

Delta's latest plane includes a window in the bathroom

Delta's new workhorse, the Airbus A220, made its first flight with passengers from MSP on Friday.
General Mills hit its profit mark, but missed its sales results

Misstep in snack bar business drags General Mills' sales results

Golden Valley-based food maker misread snack sector; stock drops more than 4%.
Cargill was fined $10 million by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission for misleading pricing related to swap trades.

Whistleblower in Cargill swaps case gets $2.5M award

Company paid $10M fine, didn't admit wrongdoing.
Cheeseburger made with Beyond Meat patty.

As new market booms, which meat alternative will win out?

The sizzling initial public offering of Beyond Meat has set off a fierce debate among companies with a variety of futuristic food ideas.
Delta tested facial scans for boarding in Atlanta and will offer them as ticketing option at 16 gates at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Delta lets you choose facial recognition as a ticket at MSP

The facial scans mark the first use of biometric technology for boarding passengers at MSP.
Sun Country postponed its technology system transition after encountering a problem when the process began Tuesday. CEO Jude Bricker, shown in a 2018

Sun Country's computer upgrade hits a snag, airline postpones transition

The Eagan-based airline's technology upgrade will take longer to complete.
Earlier this year Sun Country unveiled the new look for its fleet of Boeing 737s at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Sun Country upgrading computer system that has frustrated company, customers for years

The Eagan-based airline will transition out its aging computer systems, hoping to fix many customer-experience problems.
Workers at Sky Chef voted to authorize a strike if mediator-led talks between its union and company don’t produce a new contract.

These caterers make airline food at MSP. Now they might strike.

Airport workers hope to raise the pressure in contract talks and bring their base wage up to $15 an hour.
File photo shows a deforested area near Novo Progresso in Brazil's northern state of Para. Cargill said Thursday that a goal to stop deforestation by

Cargill puts up $30 million to fight deforestation in Brazil

The company said the industry will miss its goal of ending the destruction of the rainforest by 2020. "We can all agree, and certainly the science is very clear, the climate is changing and there is an urgent need to take action to end deforestation," a Cargill executive said.
Hormel is exploring the plant-based proteins business and will jump in with a vegan pizza topping.

Hormel, maker of Spam, developing vegan pizza topping

It's taking on a hot niche with a pizza topping and other plant-based foods.
Kevin Nygren

Kevin Nygren, who spent decades making the Star Tribune better behind the scenes, dies at 60

For 40 years, as the newspaper industry underwent seismic shifts that made many jobs irrelevant, Kevin Nygren did what needed to be done to support…
Linen & Leah sheets, which retail for $35, include Velcro strips that secure the edges to one another beneath the mattress.

Edina startup meets need by selling sheets for hard-to-fit pack-and-plays

Twin Cities startup makes bed sheets that meet day-care regulators' safety standards for pack-and-play cribs.
Jim Warner, founder of Warners' Stellian, died on June 7, 2019.

Warners' Stellian founder, who died Friday, leaves thriving Minnesota business

Now going on 11 stores, Warners' Stellian was founded on hard work and family values.
Some of the cheeses and other food distributed by Plymouth-based Classic Provisions, which was purchased this week by the parent company of Fortune Fi

Fortune Fish & Gourmet expands reach with purchase of cheese specialist Classic Provisions

Purchase helps Fortune expand in Minnesota.
Big acquisition: General Mills finished its first full year in the pet business, with Blue Buffalo Pet Products, a brand it bought for $8 billion.

Minnesota manufacturing thrived last year despite long list of challenges

Several of the state's largest manufacturers, such as General Mills, announced or closed major acquisitions, many of them ranking among their largest deals ever.
A production line at Gedney's Chaska facility is shown in February 2002. Gedney plans to lay off 38 people in Chaska this summer.

'Minnesota pickle' maker Gedney plans to lay off workers in Chaska

It's unclear what the layoffs mean for the 138-year-old foodmaker.
General Mills shares tumbled 6% on Wednesday as an investment analyst warned the initial jolt that the food maker got from its purchase of pet food ma

Blue Buffalo sales leap under General Mills, but analyst warns rapid growth may have peaked

The downgrade from Goldman Sachs pushed General Mills shares sharply lower.
In this Oct. 16, 2017 photo, baby turkeys stand in a poult barn at Smotherman Farms near Waco, Texas. The farm is involved in a pilot project by Cargi

Cargill expands recall of livestock feed over toxic fungus fears

It now affects 12,000 tons of Southern States' farm products.
Delta’s pilots and dispatchers are the only unionized groups. For years, factions within the flight attendant and ramp groups have unsuccessfully tr

Delta's growing labor clash has its roots in Minnesota's Northwest

Airline resists unions, but pilots and dispatchers are organized and some flight attendants would like to be.
Two Minnesota firms that package and distribute fruits and vegetables are being consolidated into a new company called New Harvest Foods.

Fruit cup deal: investor buys two Minnesota produce wholesalers and merges them

The combined company will employ 225 people and its corporate office will be in New Brighton.
Hormel's latest profit took a hit as it felt the impact of tariffs and recalls in the U.S. and African swine fever in China.

African swine fever ripples through pork industry, denting Hormel's profits

Disease is decimating swine in China, causing the Minn. company to raise pork prices.
Siblings Ugo and Emma Angeletti, center, reacted after General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening announced that they were the $50,000 winners of the company’

General Mills awards teens for clever ideas to reduce hunger, food waste

Siblings' plan to get more food waste used for compost earned them $50K award from General Mills program
Sales of organic foods passed $50 billion in the U.S. last year but growth is slowing.

U.S. organic sales pass $50 billion mark for first time

Sales of organic food continues to grow faster than nonorganic products, but the rate is slowing.
Delta Air Lines is combating an effort by a union and some workers to organize ramp agents and flight attendants.

Heat grows in the union debate at Delta Air Lines as senators scold CEO

Social media posts of the airline's anti-union signs trigger reaction from politicians and the union.
Pentair decided to close Urban Organics, an 87,000-square-foot indoor fish and produce farm in a former brewery in St. Paul. File photo of employee Na

Pentair closing Urban Organics, a pioneering aquaponics venture in old Schmidt Brewery

The water-filtration company said the fish and greens business didn't meet expectations.
Lab-grown steak developed by Aleph, an Israeli startup firm in which Cargill a new investing round.

Cargill invests in another company growing 'cultured meat' in a lab

The Minnesota-based agriculture processor joined a $12 million investment in an Israeli firm.

Ardent Mills to shutter four flour mills, including one in Minnesota

Joint-venture firm also closing three others in U.S.
MyPillow is cutting back production in Shakopee for a few weeks, resulting in the layoff of 120 workers, while facilities are reconfigured for a new b

MyPillow lays off 120 in Shakopee as founder retools for new venture

Production will fall for a month as the plant becomes a fulfillment center.
Delta says it will allow frequent flyers who had to stop traveling apply to get their former reward status.

Delta to let frequent fliers who stopped for life events get back old status

The new program is the most expansive by a U.S. airline to retain some of its best customers.
Global Aviation Services mechanic Bob Walker works to remove an engine strap to put on a new diesel engine he was going to install in a catering truck

How one Global Aviation fought Sun Country and another paid the price

For nearly a year now, says Gina Coleal, an executive at Global Aviation Services LLC of Eagan, "we've always had to prove that we are not the bad Global."
Cargill is recalling several types of animal feed that was distributed in Southern and Eastern states after finding it was contaminated by moldy corn.

Cargill recalls nearly 300,000 pounds of animal feed over moldy corn fears

High levels of toxin traced to animal feed produced at North Carolina plant.
Post is buying the cereal business of TreeHouse Foods.

Post Holdings to buy TreeHouse cereal business, fold into Lakeville-based unit

Post Holdings is acquiring TreeHouse Foods’ cold cereal business, expanding its private-label business. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The business will be folded into…
Ethan Brown, center, CEO of Beyond Meat, attends the Opening Bell ceremony with guests to celebrate the company’s IPO at Nasdaq, Thursday, May 2, 20

Market debut of Beyond Meat, plant-based burger maker, profits Minnesota food makers

Puris and General Mills are two beneficiaries of the best-performing stock debut this year.

TreeHouse Foods plans to close Minneapolis snack-making plant, will layoff 120 workers

The Chicago-based food maker reported a slump in snack sales during the first three months of the year.
In this Thursday, March 28, 2019, photo, a "golden giant burger" is served at a restaurant of Hotel Grand Hyatt Tokyo in Tokyo.

As alternatives to beef rise in the U.S., demand for beef is surging elsewhere

With global demand for the meat looking broader than ever, that's good news for Minnesota's food companies and ranchers.
Kernza is an intermediate wheatgrass with ancient origins that many believe holds huge potential for environmental and economic benefits.

Kernza crop failure sends General Mills unit to remake plans for new cereal

General Mills' idea for the product featuring the wheatgrass sidetracked by crop failure.
Signs sat out front at the company’s headquarters. ] ANTHONY SOUFFLE • anthony.souffle@startribune.com Cargill brokers worked the trading floor Th

Cargill promotes two senior execs, boosts leadership team to 12 for a time

Joe Stone will lead global agricultural supply chain, its hallmark business.
St. Paul Downtown Airport and other reliever airports have seen a surge in requests for private jets before the Final Four.

Private jets, charter flights about to bring thousands to Twin Cities for Final Four

Airlines and airports feel the rush as fans make last-minute plans to see their team
Drummers from a traditional Korean music troupe performed at the gate where Delta Air Lines on Monday launched round-trip service between Minneapolis-

Now boarding: Delta announces second non-stop flight to Asia from MSP

Delta celebrated the new daily route on Monday.
Richard Magnuson

Attorney Richard Magnuson, who crafted law for co-ops, dies at 93

Magnuson also was a longtime leader in the state's agricultural policy and and forever enamored of the rural environment of 20th-century America.
Cargill's sales and unit operating profits were squeezed over the winter months, but the company cut costs to lift its net profit.

Cargill's business units were squeezed in latest quarter, but profits still rose

The ongoing U.S.-China trade tensions and the outbreak of African swine fever in parts of Asia led Cargill Inc. to tighten its purse strings for…
Sun Country Airlines is suing the firm it hired to take over ramp, baggage handling and other ground services a year ago at Minneapolis-St. Paul Inter

Sun Country sues first firm it hired to take over ground services at MSP

Cost-cutting move led to complaints, flight delays.
Frozen-pizza makers at Schwan’s foods know consumers want more plant-based foods, but they can’t find a vegan cheese with the right amount of stre

Know how to make a better vegan cheese? Some Minnesota firms have money for you

Some of state's biggest firms will pitch problems to outsiders, hoping for innovation.
General Mills lifted revenue and profits in the latest quarter, helped by higher pricing.

Healthy talk is one thing, but General Mills finds people still want the sweet stuff

General Mills' third-quarter results were boosted by new products such as Fruity Lucky Charms.
With sales of conventional packaged staples lagging, food giants like Minnesota’s General Mills are on the hunt to acquire or learn from much smalle

Food corporations hunt organic, natural startups

Some organic startups are now eager to do business with giant corporations, in striking contrast to the movement's early days.

Co-founder of Organic Valley leaves the company

George Siemon helped build the co-op into a $1 billion business, but it lost money in 2017.
John Ghingo, president of Applegate Farms, the organic meats unit of Hormel Foods Corp., said the company’s “Blend Burgers” are a response to co

Applegate rolls out 'blend burgers,' as plant-based food trend muscles into meat

At organic food trade show, plant-based ingredients are influencing many new products.
General Mills committed Monday to expanding regenerative agriculture practices by 2030 on one million acres of land used to source its food ingredient

General Mills announces regenerative land-use goal: 1 million acres by 2030

General Mills promises to expand regenerative-farming principles
A Pacific white-legged shrimp

Shrimp facility reveals some difficulties of business in Minnesota

Everything was going smoothly until two days before Thanksgiving when the company, state and town met for a technical discussion about minerals in water.
A Sun Country Airlines jet takes off from Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.

Sun Country admits cost-cutting is hurting customer service

Sun Country made many changes in 2018 that eroded its ability to find lost luggage and communicate with passengers. For months, complaints grew even though data showed it was not losing or mistakenly routing luggage more than it usually did.
Sun Country is adding Fulton to its flight menu.

Sun Country adds Fulton beer, Prairie Organic spirits to its flight menu

The Minnesota airline joins its peers in giving flight to local brands.

SunOpta fires CEO and sells corn, soybean unit to Pipeline Foods

Turbulence at organic food firm occurs even as demand rises for natural products.
A logo sign outside of a facility occupied by Cargill Animal Nutrition in Little Chute, Wis.

Cargill adopts new goals to stop erosion of forest lands for farming

"Farming and forests can — and must — coexist," its CEO says.
Hormel's latest profit tumbled by comparison to a year ago, when it benefited from a one-time gain tied to tax reform.

Hormel posts lower quarterly profit, reveals CytoSport sale price of $465 million

Austin-based food maker saw sales rise, income fall against period when it got tax relief.
General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening told investors today that the company is balancing profit and sales growth with a slightly greater emphasis on sales

General Mills underlines 2019 outlook, remains focused on sales growth

At major investment conference, the company said it must move faster with product creation.
Hormel said it is selling its Cytosport business, maker of Muscle Milk products, to Pepsico. The Austin-based protein-oriented food processor has owne

Hormel sells CytoSport, maker of Muscle Milk, to Pepsi

Maker of Muscle Milk and other sports-nutrition products had "a disappointing year" in 2018.
Delta Air Lines' $1.3 billion in annual profit-sharing includes $100 million for its Minnesota employees.

Delta announces $1.3 billion in profit sharing, second-largest payout

About $100 million in bonuses will be spread among airline's Minnesota employees.
Can a family go on vacation without a rental car? Yes, with pleasure

Can a family go on vacation without a rental car? Yes, with pleasure

Rely instead on car-sharing, ride-sharing and public transport.
Sun Country’s plan to open a second pilot base reflects its growing network outside the Twin Cities. New bases have already opened for flight attend

Sun Country eyes Portland for a new pilot base, its first beyond Twin Cities

The airline has already opened several bases for flight attendants in other cities.
Richard Knowlton, former chairman and chief executive of Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods, led the company in the 1980s, a transformative period of gr

CEO who led Hormel through turbulent strike and transformation dies at 86

Hometown executive turned meatpacker into a food company that outlasted rivals, but with a price.
Richard “Dick” Ames, founder of Burnsville-based Ames Construction, died Wednesday at the age of 89.

Dick Ames, founder of Ames Construction, backer of Burnsville and Gophers, dies at 89

After farming and learning road construction, Ames bought a bulldozer and built a $1 billion business.
Rachael Vegas, chief merchant for Brandless, said the company creates its own foods and products, while giving them a shared look and pricing.

How Brandless walks a tightrope as it rises in online retail

California-based startup is relying on its Minnesota product team to fight "generic" perception.
General Mills is recalling about 100,000 five-pound bags of unbleached Gold Medal flour on concerns of salmonella contamination.

General Mills recalls some Gold Medal flour over salmonella concerns

The recall affects about 100,000 five-pound bags produced at a mill in Kansas City.
Rachael Vegas, chief merchant of Brandless, said the online retailer will remain focused on pricing in multiples of three because it brings simplicity

Fast-growing Brandless adds baby, pet products, moves beyond $3 online pricing

Venture into baby, pet merchandise marks biggest expansion for online retailer Brandless.
Cargill said it will spend at least $200 million to expand its operations in Pakistan.

Cargill plans $200M expansion in Pakistan, with focus on poultry and dairy

Cargill will also start grain trading and add other operations in Pakistan.
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