Innovation, creativity and application of a scientific problem solving system can take you big places. Just ask Dale Andersen, owner of Delkor Systems, Inc., headquartered right here in St. Paul.
Anderson is a proud graduate of the Department of Food Science and Nutrition (’79) with a bachelor’s degree in Food Science and Technology. He also earned his MBA at the U, but he is quick to note the three years he spent in FSCN were ‘some of the best years of my academic career.’
“My time in food science really taught me to be an analytical, scientific thinker,” noted Anderson. “The methods I learned were a great asset in helping to build my career.”
Owning a machinery company wasn’t the first thought for his career path, but all along the way the key concepts he learned from FSCN guided him along his successful journey.
After graduating from the department in 1979, Anderson worked for Ecolab for a couple of years before returning to the Carlson School to work on his MBA. After receiving his advanced degree, he jumped at the opportunity to go to Japan and work for a trading company. He returned stateside two years later when an opportunity with the newly organized State of Minnesota Trade Office opened, where he worked on building relationships with companies from the Far East.
Four years later fate intervened, as Anderson was introduced to the owner of Delkor. He was convinced to join the company as a salesman in 1988, purchased the company in 1999, and has since grown annual revenue from $4 million to $70 million.
A lot of people don’t automatically think of food science when they think of case packaging, and while Anderson agrees, he quickly notes that it’s the concepts and thinking learned along the way that easily translate into his profession.
“What I really learned in the program is that you have to be innovative when it comes to looking at a problem and finding a solution,” he noted. “I feel like most of our growth was because we were risk takers, always looking outside the box to how we could change the package to benefit our customers.”
Center to that risk taking was making sure the company was looking forward, instead of maintaining the status quo. Anderson and his team looked at the industry from the mass-merchandising standpoint to understand how expectations were evolving.
“We used our resources to figure out where the market was going, and how we could develop those new resources,” Anderson said.
He started looking at owning concepts and patents for new, innovative processes. One of the first big patents for a packaging system known as the Spot-Pak, really started moving the business forward.
Delkor now has over 20 patents on both machinery designs as well as package designs. Nearly everyone buys some food product that uses one of Delkor's package designs. In fact one of these designs, called Spot-Pak, is now used to ship about 60 percent of the entire North American production of cultured dairy products like yogurt, sour cream, etc. Another package concept recently patented by Delkor and called the Cabrio Case is now used extensively by Walmart for cheeses, frozen vegetables, nuts and sauces.
They will also unveil an exciting new product at Pack Expo 2016 this November in Chicago.
“It is going to be an exciting time for us, and continue to push us to the top of the industry,” Anderson noted.
While his time spent in FSCN was special, Anderson is quick to point out one professor who left a lasting impact on his analytical skills development: Dr. Ted Labuza.
For over 45 years, Dr. Labuza has impacted hundreds of students as they pass through the doors of the FSCN building. And Anderson is quick to note several of the pieces that make him a special
“If you were getting ready for a Labuza exam, you had to put the work in,” he said with a chuckle. “But that’s because he really helped his students develop a creative way of looking at a problem,
understanding the problem, and then using the scientific method to solve the problem.”
“He blended all of the sciences so well. Microbiology, physics, chemistry, he applied them all in all of his assignments to really help us [students] become great scientific thinkers.”
And it’s those principles that will continue to propel Delkor forward in the future.
Next time you are in a store, be sure to take a closer look at the display packaging for your favorite food item. You may learn that it was made right here in St. Paul.