An Omaha-based company specializing in Korean foods announced its intention April 20 to move to Nebraska Innovation Campus.
Food Dreams Made Real/Suji’s Cuisine USA is the first international company to indicate its intent to occupy space at innovation campus, which is being developed to facilitate new and in-depth partnerships between UNL and private business. Gov. Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, Chancellor Harvey Perlman, NIC Executive Director Dan Duncan and others joined FDMR founder Suji Park at the campus for the April 20 announcement.
“FDMR is a great example of the state and university working together to recruit and help grow companies,” Perlman said. “Nebraska Innovation Campus is the perfect place to match private sector and university expertise to create innovation that grows the regional economy.”
The state’s economic development department gave FDMR $300,000 in grants to develop two bulgogi products and two corresponding market-ready sauces; and to complete the final product development and designs for beginning processing of bulgogi and kimchi products to be sold in the United States. Invest Nebraska, a non-profit focused on high-growth companies, awarded $150,000 in Commercialization Program funding to launch an initial barbecue product line of precooked beef and pork bulgogi.
UNL’s Food Processing Center helped Park develop basic Korean recipes that she believes would appeal to an American palate and get the products market-ready. Laurie Keeler, the center’s senior manager for product development, helped improve the quality and safety of Park’s products.
The FPC is a food processing and applied research hub at UNL that integrates research with state-of-the-art pilot plants, laboratory services and product developers who support food entrepreneurship.
Park approached large food retail and American Club store chains to gauge interest in her products, working with the FPC and each store chain to adapt recipes to customers’ taste preferences. Then she outsourced the product manufacturing to Nebraska-based food processors for certain products.
Park’s relationship with UNL began when she attended the Institute of Food Technologists’ 2012 annual meeting, during which time she took a course taught by John Rupnow, professor of food science and technology. Rupnow recommended she contact the FPC, which is part of UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Its director, Rolando Flores, said the center connects people with ideas with the market.
“This is a very unique success story because we have someone from overseas settling here in Nebraska because the FPC is located here,” said Flores, who also is the food science and technology department head.
Park said she located in Nebraska because of the quality and integrity of the local business and academic community.
“People can do great things when others believe in them,” she said.