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Dakota Growers Pasta Company


Dakota Growers Pasta Company, founded on this date in 1991, has been so successful that it has grown to be the third largest pasta manufacturing company in North America.

The company manufactures dry pasta made from North Dakota durum, the hardest of all wheat. In fact, 80 percent of U.S. durum production, at the time Dakota Growers was founded, was in North Dakota so it made sense to locate the plant in the state. Durum wheat is the only wheat that can be used for pastas because of its high protein percentage, making it particularly healthy.

Jack Dalrymple, director of the U.S. Durum Growers Association in 1991, and others were concerned about the future of durum at the time. Dalrymple, a Casselton-area wheat farmer, was appointed chairman of the organizing board for Dakota Growers. Tom Dodd was hired as general manager and Gary Mackintosh as national sales manager.

In early 1992, 1,200 durum wheat farmers from North Dakota, western Minnesota and northeastern Montana pledged $12.5 million in equity to build a $40-million durum mill and pasta plant in Carrington, a perfect location because the durum growers could easily haul their grain to the plant.

Dakota Growers was originally formed as a cooperative, owned by the producers who provided durum to the plant. Members were required to purchase one share of stock, at an initial offering of $3.85 per bushel, for each unit of durum they wanted to sell annually to the cooperative.

The first product was shipped in November 1993 and, after just one year of operation, Dakota Growers had 3.2 million bushels of durum milling capacity and 120 million pounds of pasta.

In October 1995, the Board decided to double the capacity and, during February 1996, nearly 1,100 producers contributed over $9.7 million in equity toward the expansion. By the summer of 1996, the durum mill expansion was completed. In July 1997, the stock split at three-for-two, and the pasta plant expansion was completed. Late 2000 saw the annual capacity at 450 million pounds.

Dakota Growers purchased the Minneapolis-based pasta manufacturer, Primo Piatto, and its two Minneapolis plants in the fall of 1998, expanding the durum milling operation to 12 million bushels and doubled the production capacity.

In 2001, Dakota Growers signed an agreement with Semolina Specialists, a producer-owned cooperative in Crosby, North Dakota, to produce specialty and flavored pasta products.

The company produces pasta in variety of shapes and sizes and, in 2004, came out with a new low-carb product called Dreamfields.

Dakota Growers now operates as a C-corporation, and its products can be found in many supermarkets and used in over 20 restaurant chains.

by Cathy A. Langemo, WritePlus Inc.