ConAgra reconfiguring popcorn operations

by Eric Schroeder
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OMAHA — A number of changes are in store for the popcorn business of ConAgra Foods, Inc. The Omaha-based company said it plans to invest $8.9 million to renovate and expand its 122,000-square-foot facility in Rensselaer, Ind. The news comes just a few days after the company said it will close two Ohio facilities that produce microwave popcorn.

In Rensselaer, ConAgra will begin construction in August, with work expected to be complete by early 2015. The company will receive up to $810,000 in conditional tax credits based on the company’s job creation plans from the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

In January 2012, ConAgra announced plans to invest $15.6 million to expand its Orville Redenbacher’s microwave popcorn operations in Rensselaer, creating up to 24 new jobs by 2014. ConAgra used that investment to remodel its quality assurance laboratory, redesign its corn, slurry and salt systems, and add four microwave popcorn packaging lines.

“Expanding our operations in Indiana will help us meet the needs of our customers and operate as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Mike Tracy, senior vice-president of supply chain at ConAgra Foods. “We are pleased with the state and local partnerships we have developed, and we look forward to working together in the future.”

Meanwhile, in Ohio, ConAgra said it will shutter two facilities that make microwave popcorn, eliminating 170 jobs. The company’s facility in Marion, Ohio, is slated to close in October while a plant in Morral, Ohio, will close at the end of June 2015.

“Popcorn operations from those plants will go into other plants in the company that have similar capabilities,” said Monique Farmer, spokeswoman for ConAgra.

The Ohio closings are part of ConAgra’s overall cost-savings plan that includes selling, general and administrative commitments recently announced. ConAgra is conducting a network optimization initiative to simplify and reduce costs in manufacturing, warehousing and distribution centers.

In 2012, ConAgra eliminated 25 positions at the Marion plant to improve operating efficiency. The Marion facility at the time primarily produced Orville Redenbacher’s, ACT II and Jiffy Pop popcorn.

Elsewhere, ConAgra closed its Hamburg, Iowa, microwave popcorn facility in October 2011 and transferred all popcorn manufacturing to other ConAgra Foods popcorn facilities. The Hamburg plant produced Orville Redenbacher’s and ACT II microwave popcorn.
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