Staff Directory 6370565

Kristen Leigh Painter

Reporter | Food industry
Phone: 612.673.4767

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
Sun Country jets on the tarmac near its hangars at Minneapolis St Paul International Airport.       ] GLEN STUBBE • glen.stubbe@startribune.com

Sun Country reveals new details about IPO, aims to raise more than $200M

The locally-based airline will use some of the proceeds to repay an emergency loan from the government.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, shown speaking at the White House in March 2020, has openly invited the lawsuit from Dominion.

$1.3B defamation suit filed against Mike Lindell, MyPillow

Dominion Voting Systems' federal lawsuit over Lindell's repeated and discredited claims that Dominion helped steal the 2020 election comes after weeks of warnings from the company.
Hormel executives raised their profit and sales expectations for the rest of the year, even as comparisons are about to get tougher to the big gains i

Hormel CEO frustrated by lack of COVID-19 vaccine access for workers

Snee said some states have placed a priority on meatpacking workers, but he is 'incredibly frustrated' overall.
Delta will offer COVID-19 tests at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for passengers flying to Amsterdam.

Delta sets up rapid COVID-19 test at MSP for flights to Amsterdam

Delta will offer rapid COVID-19 tests to meet a new requirement from the Dutch government.
Hormel is buying the Planters nuts business of Kraft Heinz for $3.35 billion, the biggest purchase in Hormel's history.

Hormel makes its biggest deal ever, buying Planters for $3.3 billion

It's the biggest deal Hormel has ever made and will add more than $1 billion
Sun Country Airlines took the first step toward an initial public offering Monday. CEO Jude Bricker, in a file photo

Sun Country Airlines is going public, will list on Nasdaq

After a transformation, Sun Country reaches a turning point in its ownership.
Cargill said it accelerate closing plans for a salt mine on Avery Island, La., where two miners died after a roof collapse last month. (Photo by Scott

Accident at Louisiana salt mine leads Cargill to accelerate a closing plan

Cargill planned to begin closing the Avery Island salt mine later this year, but will do it sooner.
Twitter banned My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell late Monday, after earlier this month banning President Donald Trump from its platform. File photo of Lindel

Lindell: Twitter ban won't stop his claims of election fraud

Twitter 'permanently suspended' the Minnesota-based promoter of election conspiracies and pillows.
Sun Country announced new routes from MSP to summer vacation destinations, as executives expressed hope for a travel rebound as the coronavirus vaccin

Sun Country sees travel rebound ahead, plans 16 new routes

The Minnesota-based leisure airline is banking on the vaccine distribution and rapid COVID testing to jumpstart air travel again.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, shown in a 2020 file photo, says he’s more concerned about election results than the effect of his fight on his company.

MyPillow's Lindell shrugs off distancing by retailers, presses election fraud claim

Mike Lindell said Tuesday he continues to believe voting machine maker, other countries swayed Trump's loss.
Sun Country does a big business with winter leisure travelers heading to warm-weather destinations, including many outside the U.S.  File photo by Gle

How Sun Country, other airlines will handle the new negative-COVID rule on international flights

If you go out of the country and hope to come back after Jan. 26, you'll need to show a negative COVID test result.
General Mills suspended political donations to federal lawmakers who voted last week to override the results of the U.S. presidential election.

General Mills withdraws support from those who voted against certifying election

The Minnesota-based food company suspends politician donations to any member of Congress who voted to undermine the Electoral College results.
UnitedHealth Group is buying Change Healthcare for $13 billion, adding to its software and data services business.

UnitedHealth Group to buy Change, a health tech firm, in $13B deal

The deal, one of the largest by UnitedHealth, gives a substantial boost to its OptumInsight business.
Edina native Nick Green was recently named a 2020 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Thrive, the online-grocery and consumer-goods company.

Edina native and CEO of online grocer named entrepreneur of the year

Nick Green co-founded Thrive, following his mother's healthy eating advice from his childhood.
Nick Green, co-founder of fast-growing Thrive Market, is an Edina native. (Provided photo)

Edina native and CEO of online grocer named entrepreneur of the year

Nick Green co-founded Thrive, following his mother's healthy eating advice from his childhood.
University of Minnesota Agronomy and Plant Genetics graduate student Dorothy Kirsch (above right) and her field drone on St. Paul campus. She is worki

On the day the U remembered Borlaug's Nobel Peace Prize, another food innovator won it for 2020

It has been 50 years since Norman Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for developing a high-yield, disease-resistant wheat that saved an estimated billion human…
As workers served patrons at Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville on Wednesday, Dec. 16, Gov. Tim Walz’s address was broadcast in the background. Restaurants

Three more restaurants defy COVID restrictions, face sanctions

The Interchange in Albert Lea, Cornerstone in Monticello and The Pour House in Clarks Grove have joined a growing list of eateries defying the order.
Fousseny Cisse, 15, cleared fields on a cocoa farm in the Ivory Coast in 2001, far from his home in Mali.  The cocoa business is notoriously rife with

Courts may decide if Cargill, Nestle can be sued over child labor

U.S. Supreme Court justices may step into a clash over human rights and the reach of U.S. companies in foreign countries.
Ninth COVID-19 inmate death in Minnesota prisons

Ninth COVID-19 inmate death in Minnesota prisons

70-year-old man is the fifth inmate to die of the virus at the Faribault prison.
Cargill is temporarily closing a beef processing plant in Canada after a new outbreak of coronavirus among workers.

Cargill temporarily idles Canadian beef plant due to COVID-19 outbreak

The outbreak in Guelph, Ontario, adds to a new series hitting North American meat plants.
General Mills experienced another quarter of outsized sales and profits as it benefits from the stay-home lifestyle caused by the pandemic. But with v

General Mills continues riding the stay-at-home wave, prepares for post-pandemic life

The Golden Valley-based food maker still posting sunny earnings results as Americans eat at home, but is eyeing a return to normal.
Ernie Micek

Former Cargill CEO Ernie Micek dies at 84

Ernest "Ernie" Micek had a knack for multiplying time — or at least that's the only way those close to him can explain all that…
Delta is eliminating fees for changing plans on most international ticket bookings. It's the latest sign of the effort by airlines to encourage people

Delta Air Lines permanently eliminates international change fees

The Atlanta-based airline is expanding its flexible rebookings as it hopes to lure customers back during uncertain times.
John Killen, who had led WinCraft, will become a senior vice president for hardgoods at Fanatics.

Fanatics buys Winona-based WinCraft, maker of clocks, can coolers and snack bowls with sports logos

The deal gives the nation's top sports apparel maker a deeper reach in licensed products.
Jim Campbell farms out of Iowa County, Wis., and sells milk to Organic Valley. The organic dairy industry hopes to move forward under a new presidency

Minnesota organic dairy farmers hope to regain ground under Biden

Organic Valley's CEO is cautiously optimistic for industry despite the loss of powerful Rep. Collin Peterson.
Cargill Inc. headquarters in Minnetonka. (Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune)

Cargill argues in front of Supreme Court in child labor case

A 15-year-old lawsuit alleges Cargill and Nestlé abetted child slave labor on cocoa farms in W. Africa.
Cargill Inc.'s headquarters in Minnetonka.

Cargill makes another investment in fast-growing wellness sector

Cargill is hoping to quickly ramp up its ability to offer its food and beverage customers ways to incorporate functional wellness attributes into products.
It’s only the third time in Forbes’ 35-year history of ranking America’s private companies that Minnetonka-based Cargill wasn’t the largest.

Cargill loses title of largest private company in U.S.

The Minnetonka-based agribusiness was supplanted by Koch Industries on the Forbes annual list.
Hormel Foods Corp. missed earnings expectations and delivered an unforeseen revenue decline for the quarter ended Oct. 25.

Hormel Foods reports lackluster results as COVID continues to takes its toll

Shuttered restaurants and closed schools continue to dampen sales for the Austin, Minn.-based food company.
Passenger volume is expected to be about 65% below year-ago levels during Thanksgiving week at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. File photo

This week could be busiest for airports since the pandemic began

Passenger volume at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is expected to be 65% below last year's Thanksgiving week.
Amy Sinclair, Executive Director of Thielen Foundation, handed out turkeys at East St. Paul Worship and Service Center of the Salvation Army.

Jennie-O partners with football star Thielen's turkey giveaway

Player's foundation helps to provide 2,000 birds to Salvation Army this year.
SunOpta Inc.’s plant in Alexandria, Minn., where it produces oat milk and other products.

In a major slimdown, SunOpta sells its organic ingredients business

Edina-based organic products firm sells off ingredients business.
For the past 12 months, which includes several pre-pandemic months, cold-cereal sales in U.S. retail rose 7.7% — with General Mills rising 9.5% and

Minnesota food companies rejoice: Cereal's not just for breakfast anymore

With many not rushing to the office during the pandemic, breakfast cereal is back in vogue, and Post Consumer Brands and General Mills are reaping the benefits.
A heritage turkey from the Blue Gentian farm near New Richmond, Wis.

With rituals upended, Minnesotans rethink Thanksgiving

Sarah Branion's seven-year Friendsgiving streak is coming to an end.With her extended family all living in Minnesota where she grew up, she and her family…
Husband and wife Robert and Nancy Herron of Lake City were the first voters in line outside at the polls Tuesday at Florence Town Hall in Frontenac. �

Amid high stakes and record early turnout, Minnesota voters reflect as polls close

Minneapolis turnout surpasses 2016 as line stretches four blocks in Farmington.
Beth Ford, CEO of Land O’Lakes, in a 2019 file photo. The cooperative’s profit rose sharply in the third quarter, shaped by demand for butter and

Home bakers bought more butter, lifted profits at Land O'Lakes

Land O'Lakes benefited from COVID lockdowns.
The 2020 U.S. elections are flush with cash, much of it coming from corporations.

Minnesota's biggest companies open their wallets to political candidates, and risk

Political giving is a two-edged sword as companies often lose control of where their cash goes.
General Mills has decided that its office workers in North America won't have to return to their workplaces until next May.

General Mills office workers will stay home through May 2021

The decision, announced this week, affects its office workers throughout North America, including 3,500 at its Golden Valley HQ.
MBOLD is more specifically aimed at addressing global problems that threaten the food supply chain in the future.

Big local companies, U, others form group to tackle food challenges

Called MBOLD, the coalition is focused on sustainable growth of the food industry.
Pilgrim's Pride will expand its plant in Cold Spring, a move that will lift its employment there by about 10%.

Pilgrim's Pride will expand Cold Spring plant

The chicken processor will add 130 jobs at the plant when the addition is complete next spring.
Lenny Daniels was inducted in the Bartender Hall of Fame in 1986.

Hall of fame bartender Lenny Daniels dies at age 98

His wide lens and warm heart helped his reputation as a genuine listener who drew people of all ages.
Sun Country jets on the tarmac at Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport at the airline's maintenance facility.

Sun Country downsizes HQ staff, 18 receive notices

Most jobs were eliminated by attrition, but 18 employees were directly affected as airlines across the globe are suffering due to the pandemic.
General Mills is featuring LeBron James on its Wheaties boxes.

LeBron James latest athlete to be on Wheaties boxes

General Mills will feature NBA star's social-justice, athletic accomplishments.
Delta Air Lines says it will retire more aircraft earlier than planned, including 91 Boeing 717s like the one shown here.

Delta to retire another 17% of its plane fleet earlier than planned

Airline reacts to financial pressure from pandemic.
Mary Emma Heaps of Kalamazoo, Mich., waited for a flight with her daughter Mercy, 8, Wednesday.

As workers wait for more federal aid, Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport's long-term fate rests with Delta

Few industries have been more devastated by the global health crisis than aviation.
Revol Greens has raised $68 million in new capital, bringing its total investment to more than $200 million for giant greenhouses in Minnesota, Califo

With $68 million in funds, Minnesota's Revol Greens to expand in Texas

The Owatonna-based lettuce company is bringing its indoor greenhouse model to the Lone Star State and California.
General Mills saw another huge jump in sales during the summer months because of demand by at-home eaters. But the gain wasn't as strong as in the spr

General Mills continues to grow in pandemic, executives aim to make it last

The Golden Valley-based food company says it's capitalizing on a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to get new customers.
A few dozen people gathered outside General Mills headquarters to protest the company's operation of a plant in an industrial zone in the West Bank.

Dozens protest at General Mills HQ over company's plant on West Bank

The activists say the foodmaker's factory supports Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.
Delta Air Lines will resume long-haul international flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport next month, with four roundtrips a week to A

Delta will resume long international flights at MSP, first with Amsterdam

Delta will resume flying route four times a week, starting on Oct. 25. MSP is now averaging 288 daily departures, down from 500 a year ago.

Cloquet Carlton County Airport gets $1.2M grant to expand pilot training facilities

The expansion is expected to reduce program's five-month wait time by more than half.
Anne and Al Klein, who farm using regenerative practices, near Freeburg, Ill.

Cargill joins regenerative agriculture movement, sets goal for 10 million acres

Cargill says it can help farmers reduce risk in crucial early stages of regenerative farming practices.
Delta Air Lines says it has a way to keep its front-line ground workers and flight attendants employed without furloughs. The airline may need to redu

Delta won't furlough flight attendants, ground workers

The airline says it may still have to reduce its pilot corps.
General Mills has seens gains in the cereal market during the pandemic.

Key for General Mills is to keep market-share gains from pandemic

As the health crisis wears on, consumer behavior appears to be moderating.
Delta joined the nation's other two giant airlines, American and United, on Monday by dropping fees for changing flight plans. The fees, ranging from

Changing your flight plans? No charge, the big airlines now say

The pandemic-induced collapse in travel demand hastened end of roundly disliked charge.
Workers unloaded a Prime Air jet after it landed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Sun Country’s deal with Amazon is helping the airlin

Why Minnesota-based Sun Country is outperforming rest of airline industry

Decisions made in March, such as flying cargo for Amazon, are paying off.
Hormel headquarters in Austin, Minn.

Hormel's sales soar at grocery stores, drop at restaurants

As Americans settle into life during a pandemic, Hormel's product mix is being reshaped.
Hormel CEO Jim Snee

Hormel offers two-year college benefit to employees' children

The benefit is offered to employees' children in an effort to combat racial inequality.
Thomas Fahling

What a Crystal man did with a sudden windfall in his account this spring

Front-desk clerk stunned to find $150,000 in PPP funds in his account.
Delta Air Lines says it will continue to keep middle seats open in its planes, effectively reducing capacity by nearly one-third, for the rest of the

Delta says it will keep middle seats blocked for the rest of the year

The dominant carrier at MSP is operating at a lower capacity in hopes of limiting the spread of coronavirus.
General Mills laid out a public commitment to create more opportunities for Black managers and people of color throughout its U.S. offices.

General Mills sets goals to elevate Black managers, executives

The food company's plan reflects a larger reckoning in Corporate America over the lack of diverse representation in upper managements.
Delta Air Lines planes lined up at Los Angeles International Airport, where the airline is testing a passenger temperature scan process for several we

In a test, Delta checks passenger temps at LAX

The airline will disallow anyone with a temp of 100.4 and above from flying.
In-line skaters including Shane McClay, right, cruised over the Hennepin Avenue Bridge on a recent outing from B.F. Nelson Park to Loring Park.

Cooped-up Minnesotans dig out their in-line skates or go buy new ones

Cabin fever, shuttered gyms and nostalgia for the 1990s are leading to a resurgence of the sport that began in Minnesota 40 years ago.
Travelers at the Delta Air Lines ticketing counter Thursday at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

In a downsized airline industry, focus shifts to leisure travelers

Perks and amenities are no longer the focus — health and safety are.
LSG Sky Chefs, an airline catering contractor, is the latest to report cuts as the travel industry weathers the pandemic.

LSG Sky Chefs to cut 278 workers at MSP in October

The reduction is another effect of the downturn in air travel caused by the coronavirus.
Swissport told state officials it cut 114 jobs at Minneapolis St Paul International Airport in June because of reduced demand for air travel. File pho

Swissport's layoff of 114 at MSP draws a critical eye

Plane refueler Swissport took COVID-19 relief funds but still laid off 114 workers.
File photo of Aero Service Group's Barrio restaurant in Terminal 2 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The company has reduced staffing at

Three restaurants at MSP make permanent job cuts as air travel remains weak

Aero Service Group could lay off 92 workers by mid-September unless passenger traffic increases at the airport.
General Mills’ latest results were shaped by spending before the recent run on cereals and other packaged foods caused by anxiety about coronavirus.

Coronavirus is changing food demand by the week, General Mills says

Executives of the Golden Valley-based food company said they have been in closer contact with U.S. retailers than ever before, with its plants at full capacity.
The ticketing concourse at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport was almost empty Wednesday afternoon.

Delta, Sun Country cut flight schedules more deeply because of coronavirus

Delta and Sun Country, two leading airlines at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, on Wednesday announced deeper cuts to their flight schedules as more people avoid…
Target and other big grocers are seeing no disruptions in the supply of food and other goods. On Tuesday morning, a truck navigated past shopping cart

There's plenty of food to go around, and Minnesota stores are getting it in

The crush of grocery shoppers has been bigger than what is seen at Thanksgiving, but trucks keep rolling up with more.

Sun Country scrambles to get passengers out of Aruba and Costa Rica after borders closed

The Minnesota-based airline has stopped flying passengers into those countries and is trying to reach customers still there to ferry them out.
Reporter Kristen Painter's officemate at home has her charms but isn't as talkative as the colleagues at the office.

Working from home to avoid coronavirus: I admit, I miss people.

If new to telecommuting, be prepared for a few challenges.
Delta Air Lines will park hundreds of planes as it shuts down 40% of its flight capacity as air travel demand plummeted in the wake of the coronavirus

Delta makes deepest-ever cutback: Flights slashed 40%, Europe dropped

It became clear to executives that cuts the airline announced on Tuesday wouldn't be enough.
Sun Country's call center has been swamped by passengers trying to change spring break plans.

Sun Country's call center is swamped as passengers scrub spring break plans

March is usually the busiest month for the Twin Cities airline, and the virus is disrupting its passengers' plans.
Whitney MacMillan in a file photo taken at the administrative office of Cargill on Lake Minnetonka near his retirement in the mid-1990s.

Whitney MacMillan, former leader of Cargill and descendant of its founder, dies at 90

MacMillan was the last member of the family that owns Cargill to run the company.
Delta is cutting back routes and capital spending as it adjusts to dropping demand for air travel as passengers around the world wait out effects of t

Delta takes dramatic steps to cut its losses from coronavirus slowdown

The world's most profitable airline is reducing global flights by 15% and asking workers to take time off.