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AURI Names 2018 Ag Innovator

Smude's Brand has made a substantial impact in product innovation, uniqueness and commercialization potential


The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) is pleased to announce Smude’s Brand of Pierz, MN, is 2018 Ag Innovator of the Year.

The AURI Board of Directors awards its Ag Innovator of the Year title to a client company or entrepreneur that has made a substantial impact in the areas of product innovation, uniqueness and commercialization potential. This is AURI’s highest honor and has been presented annually for the past 16 years. Eight years of cooperative work between AURI and Smude’s Brand has culminated to this year’s honor. Proprietors Tom and Jenni Smude will be recognized at a ceremony Dec. 13, 2018 at the Embassy Suites in St. Paul.

Smude’s Brand was inspired by a bout of bad luck. An exceptionally hot and dry summer in 2007 devastated the Smude’s corn and soybean harvest. The couple sought sunflower plants that can thrive drought-like conditions to serve as an economically viable and agriculturally sustainable solution. Smude’s products soon began lining the shelves of major grocery stores and a loyal customer base steadily grew to further the business to success.

“We are proud of Smude’s Brand’s progress and are grateful for the generosity and collaborative spirit of the many partners who have helped us along the way,” says Tom Smude. “We want to thank the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute for its expertise, support and naming us Ag Innovator of the Year. We greatly appreciate the honor and recognition.”

Smude Sunflower Oil began selling retail March 2012 and Smude Microwave Popcorn launched December 2017. Smude’s Brand currently maintains a capacity of 800,000 gallons of sunflower oil annually. The business is remodeling a newly acquired facility and installing pressing equipment to increase its volume to 6 million pounds of oil a year. Smude’s Brand has the capability to expand and plans to within the next couple years.

“There are numerous innovators that inspire us every year, but the Board of Directors felt Smude’s Brand recent business expansion and creation of its microwave popcorn product was worthy of special recognition,” said AURI Executive Director, Shannon Schlecht. “Smude’s Brand Microwave Popcorn appeals to today’s health-conscious consumer with a wholesome snack that contains just three ingredients and uses a chemical-free bag without a wax coating. It is the perfect example of how AURI partners with local companies to help them make a positive impact in Minnesota.”

AURI has maintained a collaborative partnership with Smude’s Brand since 2010, furthering the brand’s success through nutritional analysis, product development, troubleshooting and innovation networking. Today the Smude’s portfolio of products continues to expand, including its recent microwave popcorn, flavored sunflower oils, soaps and lotions.

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