Skip to content
Subscriber Only

Commodities King ADM Pivots to Pet Food, Veggie Burgers, and Probiotics

Fighting stagnation in its old-line businesses, the company is searching for growth in the future of nutrition.

relates to Commodities King ADM Pivots to Pet Food, Veggie Burgers, and Probiotics
Illustration: Yann Bastard for Bloomberg Businessweek
Updated on

Grab a slice of bread in the U.S., a tortilla in Mexico, a glass of orange juice in the U.K., or a pork dumpling in China, and odds are Archer-Daniels Midland Co. has had a hand in it. For decades, ADM, once the self-styled supermarket to the world, helped put the big in Big Food. From trading soybeans to manufacturing high-fructose corn syrup to refining ethanol, it had reach and power rivaled by few in agriculture. But after years of slack growth in its old-line businesses, the 118-year-old giant is hitching its future to such things as pet food, veggie burgers, and probiotics.

Nowhere is the company’s headfirst plunge into nutrition on better display than at its ADM Science and Technology Center in Decatur, Ill., a renovated 200,000-square-foot school building. There, machines test the consistency of a veggie burger formula, “sensory panelists” in conference rooms measure the olfactory satisfaction of new ingredients, and food scientists in test kitchens develop recipes for such things as gluten-free winter pizza. (It features ADM’s tapioca starch, brown rice flour, and Italian sausage seasoning.)