ADM to launch 'Knwble Grwn' food brand at Natural Products Expo
Flax has been central to Archer Daniels Midland’s Red Wing, Minnesota, plant that is the biggest of its type in North America, and was one of ADM’s first locations when it took ownership in 1971. The plant has always produced flax seed oil for industrial purposes and has been certified for human food in a specialty market under the Knwble Grwn (“noble grown”) brand.
RED WING, Minn. — Archer Daniels Midland formally will launch its Knwble Grwn brand and flaxseed oil product in March 7-11, 2023 at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, one of the nation’s largest specialty food shows.
Jaime Goehner, an ADM commercial manager in Minneapolis, said ADM started increasing exposure for “Knwble Grwn” brand in a “soft launch” in October 2022 on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They have a knwblegrwn.com website “landing page” that is being built into an online store. Goehner said the Knwble Grwn brand is also on Amazon and Walmart.com.
Goehner serves as a general manager for the company’s flax business, which is in its Ag and Oilseed division. She grew up near Jamestown, North Dakota, and studied business communications at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, and picked up a master’s degree in international business at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.
She serves as the business manager for the Red Wing facility, which employs 55 and is the largest flax processing plant of its in North America. ADM has roughly 55,000 employees, worldwide. ADM didn’t do any new proprietary consumer research on customer interest in regenerative products, but Goehner said the Knwble Grwn brand is a sign the company wants to do “the right thing” in lifting up farmers that already are going the extra mile for soil health and other environmental practices.
Long flax history
Established in 1902, the Red Wing plant at times milled flour and processed flax, and initially was known as the Zumbro Linseed Company. The plant initially produced linseed oil for the paint and varnish industry. Flax also was grown for fibers and linen. ADM purchased the plant in 1971.
It is ADM’s only flaxseed plant, with production from North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Goehner said Red Wing was one of the company’s its first sites. She noted that flax remains the “backbone” of the facility, even as flax production has moved farther west and north. They also make canola seed meal and oil at the plant, and in the past year have produced soybean and sunflower oil.
Red Wing is the largest flaxseed crushing plant in North America, she said.
With flax, ADM uses solvent extraction to produce “linseed oil” — used to make things like paints, varnish, and to produce healthcare plastic supplies — for the industrial markets.
In the past two years, the company certified the plant for human food products under the Safe Quality Food Certification. They use the plant’s mechanical crushing equipment to make flaxseed oil for the human food market.
Under the Knwble Grwn brand, ADM sells 16-ounce bottles of flax oil, which is used for low-heat cooking applications because of its low smoke point, and in salad dressings. Flax seeds also can be used in a variety of ways, including in smoothies, salad dressings, oatmeal, cereals or sprinkled on salads. Flax products are high in Omega 3 fatty acids, reported to help in cardiovascular health .
Initially, the Knwble Grwn pilot accounts for less than 5% of the Red Wing plant’s flax processing. The flax meal coproduct is selling as a mid-protein meal to local dairy markets.
ADM is famous for its processing and supply chain prowess and is newer to “consumer-facing” brands, Goehner said. While it’s unclear whether consumers will pay more for soil health values, the company established a “climate smart” ag division in 2021.
“We’re aligning with our government relations, our corporate sustainability, and leadership to understand what that might mean,” she said.
In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that ADM is the lead partner on a project that has received $90 million in federal funding through the USDA's Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities . USDA is investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects across the country. The first 14 projects range from $5 million to $100 million.
According to USDA, the project "will utilize incentive payments to thousands of producers across 15 states to adopt and implement climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices and markets." That project is targeted at corn, soybeans, wheat, peanuts, sorghum, flax, hemp, canola, edible beans and pulse crops.
ADM also is a major partner on the National Sorghum Producers Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project, which "will implement climate-smart production practices across hundreds of thousands of acres of sorghum working lands, with the goal of reducing hundreds of millions of pounds of carbon emissions and developing markets for sorghum as a climate-smart commodity."
However, the Knwble Grwn effort with flax has been in the works for 17 months and predates the USDA announcement. Goehner said the two may become connected, but Knwbl Grwn isn't designed “for the government to fund it.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “We know the farmers are taking care of their land, stewards of their land, and want to highlight those stories.”
She said the company already works with a group of farmers — many like Paul and Diane Overby of Wolford, North Dakota, who have grown flax for Knble Grwn — who already strive for sustainable, regenerative farming.
"It was more so asking questions and creating a partnership to launch this,” she said.
Asked how many acres are involved in 2022, Goehner calls it a “very small pilot project,” but said the company would like to double it. ADM wants to build the brand “right and slow, from the start.” Goehner acknowledged there is a significant premium, on a per-acre and not a per-bushel basis, but she declined to get into specifics.
So far, ADM “loosely” defines “regenerative” as having soil health, water scarcity, livestock incorporation, precision fertilizer management and “societal improvements.”
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“It’s more a qualitative focus than quantitative focus today,” she said. There is no checklist to qualify, but a “desire to align with the values of Knbwle Grwn based on conversations with ADM field representatives. She emphasized that for ADM to communicate to consumers that “there are so many farmers doing the ‘right thing’ already,” but that the specifics may vary from place to place.
So far, the ADM’s Knwble Grwn website features only two producers — the Overbys and Barney Andrews, of Bonesteel, South Dakota, about 90 miles southeast of Chamberlain, west of the Missouri River. A couple of other producers are in North Dakota at Minot and Jamestown.
In 2023, farmers will primarily work with ADM officials Guy Christensen of Fargo and James Steinberger at Harrold, South Dakota, to establish contracts. The new year contracts likely will be available in mid-January around the time of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association annual meeting in Fargo, Goehner said.
Knwble Grwn is looking to grow into other markets. ADM is working through Specialty Commodities Inc., in Fargo, which was acquired by ADM in 2014. Those efforts will be directed by Levi Kraft, director of the company’s “Wholesome Ingredients” section. Another, separate, intermediary company is focused on hemp potential for Knwble Grwn.
Adriel Hansboro, a trader ADM who manages the linseed/flax oil book for the Red Wing plant, will discuss the brand at the Minnesota Ag & Food Summit in a "Future MN Agri-Foods Panel" panel at 3:30 p.m., on Nov. 10, 2022, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.