Home of the rebellion
About a 30-minute ride from Liberty, the Middletown operation produces all company-branded snacks. The facility houses eight processing lines in 15,000 square feet along with 20,000 square feet for packaging, 40,000 square feet for warehousing and 30,000 square feet for office space. About 170 people work on three shifts, five days a week at the SQF Level 2-certified plant.
Unlike at Liberty, the non-G.M.O. corn is delivered via rail, providing significant cost savings, said Jared Swift, Middletown plan manager. Specifically, a pneumatic inboard delivery system directly transfers the non-G.M.O. corn via a rubber hose and pipes from rail cars, each holding about 160,000 to 190,000 lbs of grain, and into the building. Each week, Norfolk Southern swaps out the empty cars to ensure a four-week supply to the operation.
Inside, a K-Tron bulk handling and sifting system transfers the corn and removes any foreign matter. Next, the corn hydrates in a continuous steeping system that eventually turns the cleaned kernels into a malleable mash that forms the base of the popped snacks. Specialty ingredients such as peas and beans arrive in 2,000-lb supersacks at both facilities.
The department also houses several silos, including a 100,000-lb bin that holds about a day’s worth of corn and serves as a backup in case there are any glitches with the rail system. Liquid ingredients such as sunflower oil are stored in three 1,500-gallon tanks.
“With this system, we streamline the handling and processing of the corn as well as provide strict food safety controls to the front of the process,” Mr. Swift explained.
From there, the corn mash transfers pneumatically into four elevated 1,000-gal holding tanks, each dedicated to feeding two processing lines. The system pumps the base and other ingredients through a long line of pipes, then diverts the mashy mixture to automatically feed each of the latest generation of servo-driven poppers located on either side of the main pipeline. In all, the room holds 240 patented poppers, or 30 individual machines lined up in a row, to make up eight processing lines.
After popping, the puffed cakes stream along into bucket conveyors that feed four PPM seasoning drums. From there, the snacks travel along Heat and Control FastBack conveyors to Yamato weighing scales and into six TNA v/f/f/s baggers at rates up to 140 a minute for 1-oz, single-serve sizes, but at much slower rates for the larger 7-oz bags. The individual packages pass through Safeline metal detection, up TNA Roflow distribution equipment and onto Masipack packaging tables for hand casepacking. A Wulftec auto shrinkwrapper secures the pallets before warehousing and distribution.