The first international company to occupy space at Nebraska Innovation Campus (NIC) was announced today. Food Dreams Made Real (FDMR Inc.), Suji’s Cuisine USA is the newest company to join the NIC family.
Suji Park, founder and Chief Inspirational Officer of FDMR Inc., Suji’s Cuisine USA, was joined by Gov. Pete Ricketts, Nebraska Department of Economic Development Director Brenda Hicks-Sorensen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) Chancellor Harvey Perlman, NIC Executive Director Dan Duncan, and other dignitaries to celebrate the launch of a recent line of cross-cultural flavored, gluten-free, all natural, no-MSG Korean foods and flavors from Nebraska (or as she calls it “the Silicon Valley of meat preparation and packaging.”)
“Nebraska has demonstrated time and again that it is a premier location for food manufacturing due to our strength as an agricultural producer combined with the academic prowess of the University and the business friendly environment that is fostered in large part by the Nebraska Department of Economic Development,” said Gov. Ricketts. “Nebraska’s doors are open to food processors of all sizes from all over the globe and we are grateful that Suji Park recognized the value, support and strength that we could bring to one another in terms of engaging and growing Nebraska’s economy and our global presence.”
Many entities collaborated on helping Park realize her dream. The Nebraska Department of Economic Development awarded FDMR, Inc. (Suji’s Cuisine USA) with Value-added Agriculture Academic Phase I and II grants of $100,000 and $200,000, respectively, to develop two market-ready bulgogi products, savory beef and spicy pork, along with two corresponding market-ready sauces; and to complete the final product development and designs for beginning large-scale processing of authentic bulgogi and kimchi products sold in the U.S.
“Suji’s Cuisine USA is the perfect example of the kind of strong start-ups and companies that Nebraska is interested in supporting. All indicators point towards economic growth and success for these companies, both in the U.S. and worldwide,” said Hicks-Sorensen. “To that end, we are pleased we could help support Suji’s Cuisine USA and her goals to capitalize on the growing Korean food demand in the U.S.”
Invest Nebraska, a private non-profit corporation focused on high-growth companies in Nebraska and growing the state’s economy, awarded FDMR, Inc. $150,000 in Commercialization (Seed) Program funding to launch its initial Suji’s Korean BBQ™product line of precooked beef and pork bulgogi.
“FDMR is a great example of the state and university working together to recruit and help grow companies,” said UNL Chancellor Perlman. “Nebraska Innovation Campus is the perfect place to match private sector and university expertise to create innovation that grows the regional economy.”
The research-based NIC is designed to facilitate new and in-depth partnerships between the University of Nebraska and private sector businesses. Omaha-based FDMR Inc. is the first international company to locate its R&D department on the campus.
“Having FDMR as the first international company to locate its R&D on NIC is incredibly exciting for us and marks our first step toward implementing our global engagement strategy,” said Duncan.
The UNL Food Processing Center (FPC) team helped Park develop basic Korean recipes she thinks will appeal to an American palate and get the products market-ready.
Laurie Keeler, Senior Manager for Product Development at the FPC, was instrumental in helping improve the quality and safety of Park’s products.
“Assisting Suji with getting her bulgogi sauce into the market is a great example of how the FPC can contribute to the food industry,” said Keeler. “Any growth or added value to the food industry is good for an agriculturally-driven state.”
She 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 processor for certain products. That is key to the success of her products. Future products may possibly be outsourced to food processors in neighboring states, as well. One major company in Nebraska currently provides all state-of-the-art packaging to ensure that products remain fresher longer.
Park’s relationship with UNL began when she attended the Institute of Food Technologists’ 2012 annual meeting, during which time she took a course “Food Science for the Non-food Scientist,” taught by UNL professor John Rupnow.
Rupnow recommended that she contact the FPC, which is part of UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
“Suji was interested in improving food processing techniques of current products in Asia and to introduce Korean product lines in the U.S.,” said Rupnow.
“The role of the FPC is to connect people with ideas with the market,” said Rolando Flores, director of the FPC and head of the Department of Food Science and Technology. “This is a very unique success story because we have someone from overseas settling here in Nebraska because the FPC is located here.”
Established in 1983, the FPC is a major food-processing and applied research hub that integrates applied research with state-of-the-art pilot plants, laboratory services, and a team of product developers who support food entrepreneurship and create value-added in Nebraska.
Park 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,” said Park. “For instance, Jake Muhleisen, of Union Bank & Trust in Lincoln, believed in me at a very early stage of my business and continues to be one of my biggest supporters.”
For the past ten years, Park has headed up four international businesses that provide cross-cultural flavors: Authentic New-York-style deli and brunch via a restaurant group in Seoul and Tokyo; Korean and U.S. flavors to retail consumers in Japan; U.S and Japanese flavors to retail customers in Korea; and now, Korean flavors to retail and food service customers in the U.S.
Her enthusiasm for her own special formulated Korean-themed all natural products, and eagerness to engage Nebraska business expertise, has helped her establish strong partnerships with Universal Pasteurization, Needham Meats, Omaha Steaks, and Packaging Corporation of America, among other companies.
Among staff of Suji’s Cuisine are a former IBP executive and a James Beard semifinalist from Omaha. Park’s own background includes attending the French Culinary Institute (now International Culinary Center) and Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
Park, who also became involved with the Nebraska Diplomats in October 2014, has been selected as a 2015 Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce Award Winner for Excellence in Business Leadership.
CONTACT Kate Ellingson at 800-426-6505, 402-471-3749 or firstname.lastname@example.org