JUST, a company that applies cutting-edge science and technology to create healthier, more sustainable foods, announced the expansion of its protein manufacturing operations to include the acquisition of a 30,000-square-foot facility and 40 acres of land in Appleton, Minnesota. The plant has been serving the food ingredient industry for more than 30 years, operating as Del Dee Foods. With this acquisition, JUST will become the largest private employer in Appleton.
For more than a year, JUST, whose scientists and Michelin-starred chefs create entirely new categories of everyday food products, has partnered with Del Dee to scale up JUST’s patented protein extraction process – a building block of the top-selling, plant-based JUST Egg. The western Minnesota factory is now responsible for a majority of JUST’s protein processing and when Del Dee’s owners began contemplating selling the business, JUST was the ideal buyer.
Through hiring and training programs, the facility’s workforce has doubled to nearly 40 employees occupying multiple shifts throughout the week. The facility now has the ability to support JUST’s production needs up to six days a week, 24 hours a day, and the company intends to attract more talent to operate seven days a week. Current employees will become JUST team members with full benefits and equity in the company, which was valued at more than $1 billion in 2017.
JUST has already invested millions of dollars in processing equipment for the site and will continue to expand its footprint in Appleton. The multi-story facility houses industrial food processing equipment, a quality assurance laboratory, warehousing and administrative offices, with ample room for further expansion. Acquiring Del Dee is instrumental in creating a manufacturing infrastructure for JUST Egg that is dependable, efficient and expandable as the company plans for future growth.
In its first full year of distribution, leading U.S. retailers like Walmart, Kroger and Whole Foods are carrying the product, along with a growing number of foodservice destinations like restaurants, college campuses, amusement parks and corporate cafeterias. JUST is also readying for broad retail and foodservice distribution in international markets after launching JUST Egg in China, Hong Kong and Singapore.
JUST Egg’s key ingredient is protein from the mung bean, a legume that has been cultivated for thousands of years and is a dietary staple in Asia. The product is cholesterol-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, Kosher certified and is packed with as much protein as many other plant and animal proteins, including the egg.
“JUST has an important mission and exciting plans and I am certain that this facility on the prairie of Minnesota will help them reach those goals,” says Del Dee co-owner Lori Lind, whose father Del Droogsma launched the business in 1972 with a focus on brokering dairy products. Droogsma, who was born on a dairy farm in 1933, later became a pioneer in transforming whey, then thought to be a waste byproduct, into a functional food ingredient. The global whey protein market is now a $10 billion industry. “It’s both fun and humbling to think that this all began with one man, a Rolodex and a big dream,” Lind said.
“It was my hope that when the time was right, we would be able to sell our facility as a whole, with the factory running, and ultimately keeping our staff employed. JUST has made this hope a reality,” says Del Dee CEO and co-owner Mike Lind.
“Having JUST acquire our facility is a win-win for everyone, including the city of Appleton. In one year, we have doubled our staff and JUST has plans to continue that trend. That is great news for our town,” adds Del Dee Production Manager and co-owner John Droogsma.
“To make our mission happen, we need to scale. Separating the protein from the bean requires talent, proprietary processing and a supportive community. We found all that and more in Appleton,” says Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of JUST. “I didn’t meet Del, but I’m inspired by his ability to see the opportunity in what others saw as waste and turn it into a many decades-long business. We aim to continue his visionary mindset into the future.”
The transaction is expected to close by the end of 2019. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.