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What is Cargill Dow LLC?

Randy Howard, President and CEO, Cargill Dow LLC
Cargill Dow LLC is a young and aggressive stand-alone company - a product of a joint venture between Cargill Incorporated, the largest privately held food and feed company in the world, and The Dow Chemical Company, a leading science and technology company. Founded in 1997, Cargill Dow is based in Minnetonka, Minn., and is the first company to offer its customers a commercially viable family of plastic resin derived entirely from annually renewable resources - Midwest corn. Known as NatureWorks' PLA, this plastic resin is currently being used in the fiber and packaging markets with the performance and price necessary to compete with traditional plastics like polyester. The company has achieved this breakthrough by applying its unique technology to the processing of natural plant sugars to create a proprietary polylactide polymer (PLA).

What are some of the hurdles you have faced in establishing Cargill Dow LLC?

Like any company based on new technology, we faced development hurdles, as well as economic and market issues. But we have taken everything in logical steps based on real objectives, and it has paid off. In just five years, we have made NatureWorks PLA a commercial reality and created global market demand. In just two years, we put the first world-scale manufacturing plant of NatureWorks in operation. We are extremely fortunate to have assembled such a talented group of employees that has literally worked around the clock to make this happen.

Explain how NatureWorks PLA is the "new industrial revolution"?

Cargill Dow is the first company to commercially produce a renewable resource-based plastic material for the global marketplace - replacing highly used everyday consumer items with a quality solution. The enormity of possibilities this technology offers is helping reshape industries' views of business to be a little less reliant on finite fossil resources and more on the reality that our future is now.

How are you helping agriculture producers stay in business?

NatureWorks PLA is made from 100 percent simple plant sugars such as Midwest-grown corn, and someday even biomass (plant leaves and stalks). The significance of this was fully recognized in April of this past year when Cargill Dow announced the operation of the world's first global-scale PLA manufacturing facility in Blair, Neb., - representing a $750 million investment on the part of Cargill Dow. At capacity, the plant will produce 300 million pounds of NatureWorks per year, requiring 40,000 bushels of locally grown corn per day as the raw material for the manufacturing process. We are also exploring opportunities in the area of using biomass to help fuel our process.

How is Cargill Dow's product sustaining the environment?

Our company mission is to produce products from renewable resources that meet the world's needs of today without compromising the earth's ability to meet the needs of tomorrow. We believe and live this through sustainability practices. We measure our success using the triple bottom line, which encompasses all the economical, social and environmental aspects of our business.

Economically, we have to make money or we don't exist. Socially, products need to provide value and make a better quality of life. And environmentally, we have to leave a smaller footprint or we will inevitably destroy our environment.

What is the market potential for NatureWorks PLA products?

Initially, we're working in the packaging, fiber and chemical intermediates markets. Cargill Dow has aggressively pursued a range of applications and successfully test marketed and launched products in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. Initial heavy market demand has come from the Asia Pacific Rim and Europe, coinciding with needs based on their environmental issues.

In the United States, we launched the first fiberfill bedding (pillows, comforters, etc.) with Pacific Coast Feather Company. These products are now on store shelves at Bed, Bath and Beyond, Younkers, Carson Pirie Scott and the 2003 Land's End catalog. Additionally, venue cups made from NatureWorks PLA were used by The Coca-Cola Company at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah.

What is the plan for pursuing future markets?

Cargill Dow continues to invest in technological advancements of PLA that will further its application range in all markets. We see the greatest growth and value potential in the food and non-food packaging markets as well as the fiber and textile markets we are working in now. But we also view this as our starting point. Long term, there seems to be no end to the possibilities for NatureWorks PLA.

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