LINCOLN, NEB. — Instinct Pet Food cut the ribbon on its new Center of Excellence (CoE) project, officially opening the facility on June 5. Located in Lincoln, the CoE aims to bring together all three of Instinct’s operations in the city together on a single campus. 

“Today marks a significant milestone in our journey towards the sustainable future and one that includes more high-quality minimally processed food for dogs and cats,” said Gordon Dumesich, chief executive officer of Instinct. “We’ve been producing Instinct recipes here for over 20 years now, and we’re proud to be part of this community. We’re so proud, in fact, that with the help of our owners at Agrolimen, we’re investing significantly in expanding our operations. This investment demonstrates our confidence not only in the future of Lincoln and also the growth of natural, fresher pet food in the United States, but also all around the world.”

The event was attended by Dumesich, Bobby Harris, chief operating officer of Instinct; Neil Thompson, former CEO of Instinct; Lincoln Mayor Gaylor Baird; Nebraska Lieutenant Governor Joe Kelly; and Artur Carulla, president of Agrolimen, which acquired Instinct in 2016. Additionally, Instinct’s original founders Bob and Cynthia Milligan were in attendance. 

Instinct cuts the ribbon on new pet food facilitySource: Sosland Publishing Co. / Nicole Kerwin

“This is a big deal, this is $160 million, a 100,000-square-foot Center of Excellence, and this is going to further cement our community status as a major hub for pet food manufacturing in the Midwest,” Baird said. “And with this new facility, Lincoln will become a top dog in growing the pet food industry here.”

According to Instinct, the company has seen a significant shift in pet parents’ preference for fresh, minimally processed, high-protein pet food ranging from a variety of formats including raw, freeze-dried, gently cooked and air-dried. To continue as the leader in minimally processed, premium quality pet food, the company developed its CoE as a best-in-class facility, producing pet food at human food quality and standards. 

“Pet parents are stepping away from ultra processed food and seeking real food alternatives to enable their pets to live longer, healthier lives,” Dumesich said. “We’re proud to be offering best in class pet nutrition with frozen and freeze-dried meals and mixes produced right here at our CoE, and this will enable us to make more and stick more responsibly to meet this growing demand.  

“This demand proves that Instinct’s exceptional nutrition is more than just a trend but a movement that is increasingly being underpinned by scientific fact that humans, as well as pets, do better on minimally processed, fresher food,” he added.

The ribbon-cutting marks the first phase of completion on the CoE, with Phase 2 already underway, which will focus on quality and increasing the facility’s capabilities to foster product innovation. Instinct expects Phase 2 of construction to be completed in March 2025, following which the company will operate a single campus in Lincoln, bringing all production and processing under “one roof.” This, according to Instinct, will make the CoE particularly unique in the industry as it will eliminate the need for outsourcing production processes. 

Once fully completed, the facility will feature expansive processing areas for both freeze drying and high-pressure processing (HPP), as well as ingredient receiving and storage space, grinding, mixing and blending operations and enhanced food safety features. Additionally, the CoE will include a Spiral Immersion System (SIS), used in the human food industry, to increase efficiency. 

Instinct estimates that the campus will increase its capacity three-fold, featuring 5.1 million lbs of freeze-dried capacity and between 26 to 28 million lbs of HPP capacity.  

Not only does the CoE offer expanded capacity and streamlined production, but it also aligns with Instinct’s sustainable business practices. The new facility is LEED certified, making it one of the few pet food manufacturing facilities to tout such a certification, according to Instinct.

“Instinct’s been a leader since 2001 and we’re proud to build on this heritage with this state-of-the-art, sustainable operation,” Dumesich said. “Today we celebrate not just the building, but a vision realized with pet nutrition and sustainable growth go hand-in-hand. As we step into this new chapter, let us carry forward the spirit of innovation, integrity and environmental responsibility that has brought us to this point.”

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