SunOpta Inc. is opening a new headquarters in Eden Prairie, signaling a new chapter for the company as it completes its turnaround effort.
The company, currently based in Edina, will double its space that will include both offices and a research and development (R&D) center.
SunOpta has transformed itself in the past two years from an organic commodities supplier to a creator and manufacturer of plant-based food ingredients — with a particular focus on plant-based milks and fruit-based foods and beverages.
At the end of 2020, SunOpta sold its organic commodities business for $389 million and used the proceeds to pay down debt, said Joe Ennen, the company's chief executive.
"2020 was a transformational year for SunOpta," Ennen said. "We are in an incredibly strong position as it relates to our balance sheets and our debt load, and so it is basically a nonissue now."
The company finished the year with revenue up 9% and a profit that tripled.
"We feel great about the strength of our business and our ability to go out and make capital investments in the company," Ennen said.
The new 65,000-square-foot headquarters will be located in a business park near the interchange of highways 212, 62 and 169 off Shady Oak Road. It increases SunOpta's R&D space eightfold. Construction on the $20 million office begins in May with a target move-in date in December.
For years, SunOpta was headquartered in suburban Toronto, and the Twin Cities served as its U.S. base. But executive offices and operations continued to shift away from Canada before the company formally moved its headquarters to Edina last year.
The company has long been invested in high-growth categories, such as organic, plant-based foods, but it was overstretched. As debt grew, the stock price plummeted, bottoming out at about $1.30 per share in October 2019. Ennen started a turnaround plan that included significant layoffs of top management and the sale of its global ingredients business.
SunOpta has three types of business: making and packaging other company's products, private-label plant-based milk — like soy milk and coconut milk — and its own branded products. The latter line of business just launched its first organic oat milk creamer, called Sown, at Whole Foods, Sprouts and Amazon.
Its biggest customer is Starbucks. "Every drop of almond milk in your [Starbucks] latte comes from SunOpta," Ennen said.
SunOpta made a push into oat milk during the early days of that dairy alternative's explosive growth. Last year, SunOpta invested $26 million to upgrade its facility in Alexandria, Minn., where it produced it. Oat milk is growing more than 100% year-over-year, Ennen said.
"Oat milk is one of the biggest bets the company has ever made and it is good to see we put the wager in the right place," he said.
The company is now "in earnest starting to look at acquisitions" globally in nonmilk dairy alternatives — such as plant-based cheese and yogurt — as well as branded products.
SunOpta's stock is now trading around $15 a share.
Kristen Leigh Painter • 612-673-4767