How does the saying go? Isn’t it “Absence (of capital projects) makes the heart grow fonder?” This isRefrigerated & Frozen Foods ’ 11th annual “Food Plants of the Year” feature. 

How does the saying go? Isn’t it “Absence (of capital projects) makes the heart grow fonder?”

This is Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 11th annual “Food Plants of the Year” feature. Interestingly enough, I must say that I’ve loved this year’s research and writing more than perhaps any time in the past. Yet I am not quite sure why.

Actually, I suspect there are two reasons: capital spending and creativity.

Let’s face it. It is more fun to write about growth and new capital projects. I think that absence – the recession’s freeze on capital projects – makes the heart grow fonder. After several years of relative quiet, it’s great to see companies invest in greenfield operations. Moreover, it’s been rewarding to profile three new facilities belonging to Gonnella Frozen Products, Kettle Creations (a start-up company, no less) and ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston.

I’m equally captivated by engineering and process creativity (which does not reside in my brain). I wrote about it last year – with pieces on how Gill’s Onions converts onion waste to usable energy; and how ConAgra Foods’ Council Bluffs, Iowa, plant uses pure statistical process control steps to realize meaningful production and quality gains.

This year brings more interesting storylines about worker safety, energy reduction and environmental waste reduction. These General Mills, Cargill and Sara Lee operations do so much more than product supply. They’re applying several industry-leading technologies and techniques.

Bottom line, it feels as though we’ve entered a new industrial age with food plant design and continuous improvement (involving brownfield sites) practices.

And for the moment, there’s even a brighter near-term forecast. Industrial Info Resources (IIR), Sugar Land, Tex., projects food and beverage processors have more than $3 billion second quarter expenditures allocated for capital and maintenance projects at U.S. and Canadian food processing plants and / or distribution centers.

Said IIR, “The need to alleviate capacity constraints and expand capacity to meet growing demand, combined with favorable economic conditions, will drive spending plans in 2011. Investments in new facilities and plant expansions are projected to gain momentum as the year progresses and the post-recession trend in consumer spending remains upward.”

Profiling you in 2012?
R&FF invites industry suppliers and processors to submit "Food Plant of the Year" recommendations to Editor Bob Garrison at (574) 935-3724 or, by e-mail, at