Blue Diamond opens almond plant

by Laurie Gorton
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TURLOCK, CALIF. — Engineered and built to handle today’s stringent food quality and safety standards, the new 200,000-square-foot almond processing plant opened by the Blue Diamond almond growers cooperative represents the largest single almond investment in its history.

The new plant will help meet rising demand for value-added almond ingredients from food companies around the world, the company said.

“The new Turlock plant supports the significant growth in our global almond ingredients business with a facility that sets new standards for food safety,” said Mark Jansen, president and chief executive officer of the cooperative, headquartered at Sacramento, Calif.

Almonds processed at Turlock find their way into cereals, snack bars, yogurt toppings, baked goods and candies.

“The technology in this plant approaches clean-room standards,” said Jeff Smith, director of marketing for the cooperative’s Global Ingredients Division, speaking with Baking & Snack at the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and Food Expo on July 15.

The company also opened a 6,500-square-foot innovation center to support its ingredients division as well as consumer products.

“Our brand has led the world tree nut industry in new product innovations,” Mr. Jansen said. “Value-added revenues for Blue Diamond’s global ingredient business exploded by 69% between 2009 and 2011. Almonds continue to rank No. 1 as the leading nut in new food products worldwide. Our expanded manufacturing capacity couldn’t come at a more critical time as record demand drives us to process at a faster pace to support our global customers in their growth.”

When fully built out, the Turlock facility will cover 500,000 square feet on an 88-acre site. The first phase, now completed, yielded 300 jobs, including 100 direct jobs, an estimated 123 additional indirect local supplier-based jobs and 79 jobs induced from increased consumer spending in the community, said Randall Svedbeck, research manager for the Stanislaus Economic Development and Workforce Alliance, Modesto, Calif. It covers Stanislaus county where Turlock is located.

The company said it last made a major investment in a facility in 1968, when the state of the California was producing 148 million lb of almonds.

“Compare that to this year’s crop of about 2 billion lb and you can better understand why we are making a major investment to expand our business,” Mr. Jansen said.

Blue Diamond was formed in 1910 and today counts more than half of California’s almond growers as members.

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