Colorado is a leader in the agriculture and food processing industry, especially in the burgeoning organic sector. According to the 2015 State Agriculture Overview, Colorado is home to more than 34,000 farms or ranches with more than 31.7 million acres devoted to farm operations. Colorado ranchers raised more than 77,000 beef cattle and 148,000 dairy cattle. The state is third in the nation in sheep production.
The state’s agriculture industry contributes more than $41 billion to Colorado’s overall economy. Food, beverage, and other agriculture products are exported to more than 130 countries. Even the products made by companies like Celestial Seasonings, a tea company founded in Boulder, seem to embody the Colorado ethos of nature and beauty.
Denver-based WhiteWave Foods Company would like to become the cream in your coffee. Or they’d like to sell it to you. The global food manufacturer with more than 5,000 employees and production facilities throughout North America and Europe is the parent company of International Delight coffee creamer and the contract manufacturer of Land of Lakes Half and Half and Mini Moos. The company is a giant in the healthy, plant-based foods sector with brands like Silk, So Delicious, Alpro and Vega. In addition to its corporate headquarters in Denver, the company’s North American division headquarters is based in Broomfield and Technical Innovation Center in Louisville, both cities north of Denver.
A number of factors come into play with WhiteWave’s decision to locate its leadership in Colorado, “not the least of which is the fact that our Silk brand was founded in Boulder,” says Matt Hargarten, director of communications at WhiteWave. Hargarten says Colorado has a long history of successful business formation and growth in the sustainable agriculture and food production sector. “This history allows us to tap into that infrastructure to share best practices and recruit best-in-class talent,” he adds.
Companies in the state are among the industry’s trailblazers in the organic, free-form and sustainable food production practices. At a time when consumers are demanding more accountability from food producers, Colorado companies like WhiteWave are leading the way rather than playing catch-up.
“Colorado has long been a state where new ideas and innovative thinking in the food industry are embraced and nurtured,” says Hargarten. “We sponsor an organization called Naturally Boulder which links together innovative companies in the natural foods industry to share best practices, discuss issues of shared importance, and further nurture the business climate for food companies. This history and business climate for food companies was the main driver for locating WhiteWave in Colorado.
The company routinely partners with Naturally Boulder to enhance workforce training in Boulder and works with state universities to guide curriculum development to advance innovation and growth of the food production sector. Hargarten says the state’s reputation is a workforce development boon.
“We believe the history of innovation in the natural foods industry has helped us recruit great talent from within Colorado,” he adds. “What’s more, we find that Colorado is an easy place to recruit outside talent because of the great outdoor lifestyle and standard of living residents of Colorado enjoy.