Enjoy that bowl of cereal this morning? There's a good chance it came from this city in Iowa (along with other delicious treats you love!)
For anyone visiting downtown Cedar Rapids, IA, the scent of berries wafting through the air might be an unexpected – yet pleasant – surprise. Locals know this aroma all too well. It’s the smell of Quaker Oats’ Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal. This kid (and adult) favorite breakfast food is just one of the many products made in and distributed from Cedar Rapids that you can find on grocery store shelves.
Food manufacturing in Cedar Rapids is bustling. With multinational players like General Mills, Quaker Oats and Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM), Cedar Rapids is doing more than keeping Cap’n Crunch on the breakfast table; it’s literally feeding the world.
Largest General Mills Factory in U.S.
“The products we make tend to be products that we grew up eating in our households,” says Mike Noble, plant manager for the General Mills manufacturing plant in Cedar Rapids. “We’re the next generation that’s creating that same love affair or affinity for our products that our parents did for us.”
At the General Mills facility, more than 700 employees produce some of the world’s best-selling cereals, from Honey Nut Cheerios to Lucky Charms. They also make well-known fruit snack products like Fruit Roll-Ups and Fruit by the Foot. In addition, the facility produces every variety of Betty Crocker frosting.
“We are the largest General Mills manufacturing facility in the country,” Noble says. “The products that we make play a strategic role not only in the businesses we support but also General Mills as a global enterprise.”
Quaker Oats Has Deep Roots in Region
Another global enterprise is Quaker Oats, and its roots run deep in this region. What began as a modest oat milling business nearly 150 years ago is now one of the largest oat mills in the world and the epicenter of Quaker’s oat processing, according to Jay Hardeman, senior director of manufacturing for the Cedar Rapids facility. And with about 900 employees, the manufacturer is also one of the largest employers in the area.
Oatmeal products, like the iconic canister of Quaker Oats, along with many familiar items like Life cereal and Quaker Instant Grits, are all produced here – and they hold a special place in the hearts of company employees.
“When the pandemic hit, our employees took great pride in being able to help feed America,” Hardeman says. “It’s still a source of pride to know that we’re making products that deliver great taste and that are nutritious.”
The Right Ingredients
To keep the food supply chain moving, ample natural resources and a stable employment base are critical to the success of these local manufacturers, Noble says.
Thankfully, Cedar Rapids offers access to both, making it easy for these companies to grow. The General Mills plant, for example, is in the process of a $37 million expansion to create even more production capacity and jobs.
“We are in the middle of rural America and all this farmland,” Noble says. “It’s a wonderful place for us to source ingredients. There are also really good transportation networks in and out of the area. The community here is rooted in farming and agriculture, and the people have a really good work ethic and pride in the work they do.”
Noble says that many food manufacturing employees in the area are multigenerational, and they find stability in the ample job opportunities here.
Another company providing jobs and helping put food on tables is corn-processing facility ADM, one of the largest processors of soybeans, corn, wheat and cocoa in the world.
Crunch Berry Run
The Quaker Oats Company, which can trace its Cedar Rapids roots back to the 1870s, is tied to the community in more ways than one. Each fall, the Crunch Berry Run is held in the downtown district. Proceeds from the run go to Murals & More, a local nonprofit whose mission is to expand public art projects and causes. Runners and walkers are encouraged to be outfitted in bright colors, which also goes along with the “colorful” public art mission.
Companies Receive Community Support
Operating out of Cedar Rapids, these three companies benefit from community support, but that support also goes both ways. “We source several supplies and ingredients locally, and we utilize a number of local companies for support, such as electrical, mechanical and engineering services,” Hardeman says.
With ongoing investment within the community, Cedar Rapids will continue to be a reliable resource for food stability around the world, Noble says, “making food that the world loves.”