What is DakPak and why is it in Woonsocket? Sports nutrition company turns warehouse into packaging facility
The growth that DakPak has experienced since opening in Woonsocket garnered the attention of U.S. Sen. John Thune, who went on a tour of the 144,000-square-foot facility
WOONSOCKET — One by one, black containers made their way down a conveyor belt Monday afternoon inside of a large warehouse in Woonsocket to be filled with sports supplement powders.
The containers were sealed, labeled and shipped out to retail stores across the country. It’s one of the many products packaged at the 144,000-square-foot facility in Woonsocket called DakPak.
For decades, Van Dyke’s Taxidermy occupied the entire building along Highway 34. The warehouse welcomed a new business in 2018 when a group of owners turned it into a packaging and manufacturing facility to produce and package a wide array of sports nutrition products and dietary supplements that are sold around the globe. And business has been booming since, said DakPak co-owner Alex Jensen.
“We are chugging along, and we’re increasing sales and customers. We package and ship for 10 other companies,” Jensen said.
The growth that the packaging business has experienced garnered the attention of U.S. Sen. John Thune, who made a trip Monday for a tour of the facility.
A 30-person crew runs the operations of the Woonsocket warehouse. The team of employees also oversee the arsenal of packaging and production machinery inside the facility.
Jensen echoed to Thune how much of an impact the Paycheck Protection Program had on DakPak during the height of the pandemic, pointing to the program as the “only reason” the warehouse is still going strong. The Paycheck Protection Program was rolled out by former President Donald Trump as a way to loan businesses money amid the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
Thune was among the U.S. senators who voted for the bill that included the PPP loan program that allowed businesses, large and small, to apply for fully forgivable loans to keep staff on the payroll during the pandemic.
“Had that not been available, from conversations I’ve had with others, we wouldn’t be here today. Understand that you spent a little money, but we really appreciate it from a small company’s perspective,” Jensen said to Thune.
DakPak’s biggest customer is Max Muscle Nutrition — a longtime sports nutrition and dietary supplement company that recently moved its headquarters from California to Sioux Falls. The Sioux Falls entrepreneur became a co-owner of DakPak this year after being named the CEO of Max Muscle Nutrition.
The roughly $40 billion sports nutrition industry has shown no signs of slowing down and is projected to grow over the next decade, according to economists.
Each week, the warehouse ships out about 900 packages of products that are either enroute to retail shelves or a customer’s doorstep.
Over the past four years, the facility has expanded its capabilities and tapped into new markets, such as canning energy drinks and other beverages. It’s one of the latest moves the company has made to attract more customers and brands to DakPak.
“The younger generation doesn’t want to carry around a shaker bottle and mix it up. So we invested in a canning line to be able to make the same formula, carbonate it and put it in a can,” said DakPak plant manager Brian Goertz, noting the warehouse can store thousands of cans for beverage companies.
While the facility services some big name brands, Goertz said DakPak has found a niche in packaging products for start-up businesses and small businesses seeking to get their products to retail shelves.
“We had a customer who made and owned his own product in Minnesota that people loved buying at the local grocery stores. He came to us, and now he’s looking to get into Runnings and Cabela’s,” Goertz said. “We set it up in such a way that we get small start ups. And if they grow, we grow with them.”
Valuable small-town SD workforce, reliability boosting business
As for what drew the owners of DakPak to pick Woonsocket, Jensen said the small town’s workforce, availability of a massive warehouse and close proximity to Interstate 90 and Interstate 29 corridors were the biggest factors.
“It’s fun to do this in the middle of South Dakota, and bolster these small communities with hard workers. This warehouse allows us room to grow. We intend to grow business here because the workforce is here and valuable,” Jensen said. “We’re within an hour of the I-90 corridor, and a lot of our partners really like that,”
DakPak’s ability to remain open and operating at full capacity throughout the pandemic helped boost business and attract new brands, Jensen said.
With room to grow inside the massive Woonsocket warehouse, Jensen said the “future is bright” at DakPak.
“Our partners have found us reliable. The facilities on the coasts during the pandemic, they didn’t stay open. But we stayed open and safely operated,” Jensen said.