The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI) recently published a research report on shared-used commercial kitchens in Minnesota. The study’s authors say the findings can be used to improve and enhance the commercial kitchen business model and ultimately better support scaling food businesses in the state.
Shared-use commercial kitchens are businesses or nonprofits that provide commercial space and equipment for other businesses or individuals to commercially prepare food for wholesale, resale or distribution. Emerging food businesses rely on these facilities to grow production.
AURI and MDA commissioned CLUTCH Performance, a Minneapolis-based food marketing firm, and the Food Works Group, an advisory firm serving food businesses, for this initiative. Their work set out to answer important questions regarding how commercial kitchens can succeed in both urban and rural areas and what the state can do to foster growth and development in the industry. The study provides insights for AURI and other key decision makers to support the commercial kitchen sector statewide.
The study’s authors interviewed commercial kitchen business owners and other stakeholders throughout the state of Minnesota, conducted three regional focus groups and completed four case studies highlighting different operating models in urban and rural areas, along with national best practices. The issues that emerged were unique to specific regions of the state as well as urban and rural locales.
The authors recommend that an industry taskforce should be created to further support shared-use commercial kitchens in Minnesota. This group can advise on issues like additional funding, information sharing and policy changes. The report also recommends undertaking the creation of a shared-use commercial kitchen toolkit. The document would serve as a gathering place for useful information like a real-time index of available shared kitchen facilities throughout the state of Minnesota; model language for policies and regulation, a better understanding of kitchen facilities that might qualify for shared kitchen use; and guidance on how to onboard an existing space for shared-use. There is also a need for more information on regulatory, inspection, licensing and insurance requirements and existing funding opportunities for operating costs and capital investments.
“Access to shared-use commercial kitchens is critical for scaling food businesses. Creating a robust network that meets the needs of the industry and tomorrow’s rural and urban food entrepreneurs, requires a comprehensive approach and the input of many stakeholders,” said Shannon Schlecht, AURI’s Executive Director. “This research is an effective first step. We are grateful for the work and support of our partners on this project. Building off this work, decision makers can remove limitations, explore novel business models for potential fit and identify opportunities for investment and innovation that will ultimately strengthen the food value chain.”
The shared-use commercial kitchen report was published through AURI’s Ag Innovation Partnership (AIP), a program that catalyzes innovation, generates new ideas and supports collaborative partnerships in Minnesota’s value-added agricultural industry. Projects selected through the AIP receive funding, support and resources from AURI. Visit auri.org to learn more.
The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s mission is to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products. It accomplishes this by using science and technology to help develop new uses for agricultural products. It partners with businesses and entrepreneurs to generate economic impact in Minnesota communities by helping businesses take advantage of innovative opportunities in four focus areas: biobased products, renewable energy, coproducts and food. AURI provides a broad range of services, including applied research and development, scientific assistance and a targeted network of resources to develop value-added uses for crops and coproducts.