Forethought and planning are obviously critical steps when companies consider new plant construction or renovations to existing facilities. Location, physical size, products, markets, potential for growth and many other factors cram the agenda. Pepperidge Farm was no different in 1987 when it built a new bakery in Lakeland, FL.

The expertise and knowledge Pepperidge gained from that project and the new plant startup in 2003 at Bloomfield, CT, allowed the quick and efficient expansion of the Lakeland bakery during 2008.

When it opened the now 320,000-sq-ft Lakeland plant, Pepperidge ran three cookie lines,a Goldfish-brand cracker line, a bread line producing 1-lb loaf bread, a roll line and a hearth line. But forethought from management anticipated up to nine production lines at the facility. Although cookie production was transferred to other Pepperidge facilities in the mid-1990s, infrastructure for these lines was only decommissioned, not removed. Benefits from this action were the company’s later ability to add a Goldfish cracker line and move production of its Distinctive variety crackers in-house from contract packers.

The plant currently runs one line producing Distinctive variety crackers, which are distributed across the country. It is the only Pepperidge plant producing this product. Its single Goldfish cracker line focuses on Flavor Blasted varieties. Together, biscuit operations occupy about one-half of the available production space.

As demographics in Florida changed over the years, so did the demand for fresh bread.“It got to the point where we were out of capacity on the original line here in Lakeland,” said Gary Tarr, plant manager.

Production was soon supplemented by its sister plant in Aiken, SC.

“Pepperidge plants do not complete with one another for territory, technology or people, certainly not in a destructive sense,” said Dave Watson, former vice-president of engineering at Pepperidge, now vice-president of engineering international and bakery technology at Campbell Soup Company (Pepperidge Farm’s parent company).

“That is a big deal for Pepperidge Farm,” Mr. Watson said. “It’s a culture — to do the right thing for the company. We have a shared mission and a cooperative mandate. The needs of company come first versus needs of any one plant.”

Both men noted that although the company has a centralized decision-making structure, the plants work together to deliver their commitments. Plants work with each other. “Of course, each has its own goals and budgets, but we make it work,” Mr. Tarr said. “We never say no to another plant’s needs.”


Over time, it became apparent that the Florida bread market was on a long growth ascent, and the Aiken plant had its own market to supply. Volume rose to the point that a second bread line was justified at Lakeland.

As the plan to increase bread capacity went forward, best practices and cooperative mandates were at its core. Lakeland was originally designed to be the most automated bakery in the US. However, the desired technology level was ahead of its time, according to Mr. Watson. “It was the first plant built by Pepperidge in 10 years, and it had its share of challenges and went through several modifica- tions throughout its early history to run smoothly.”

The Denver, PA, plant was next in succession, followed by Bloomfield, CT. “We learned a lot from each of these major projects, and technology advanced to a point that it was much more in line with the bakeries’ capabilities,” Mr. Watson added.

“We studied the bread operations at Bloomfield and Denver, compared with the methods used here,” Mr. Tarr said. “While similar in concept as bread production goes — mixing, moulding, proofing, baking — we were using high-speed mixing in small batches, while the other plants used horizontal mixing techniques. This plant was in for a major change.”

Lakeland was the last Pepperidge plant on the East Coast to use high-speed mixing. When the current project was complete, not only were Peerless horizontal mixers then installed on the plant’s original bread line but also at Denver as a parallel project. The Lakeland plant still uses two Stephan high-speed mixers for its roll line.

Bread demand and plans for new products prompted the company to go with a double line, which uses two mixers, two dividers, two rounders and two moulders to feed the oven. The new line’s annual capacity is 31 million units, and it currently runs 210 lb per minute. Total capital investment for the line was $23 million.

The plant had a Winkler hearth line, but it was removed because of reduced product demand and to help accommodate the new line. The plant now has its original bread line, a roll line and the new bread line.


During the planning stages of the new line, key Lakeland employees were sent to Bloomfield for training. “There were high expectations to deliver the new line flawlessly,” said Glenn Wright, manager of engineering and maintenance at Lakeland. “That included vendor, engineering and project management.”

Mr. Wright was involved in the Bloomfield startup, thereby bringing firsthand experience.“It’s been five years since the Bloomfield installation,” he said. “We learned a lot about high-speed bakery production lines at Bloomfield, but there have been advances in technology since then. This line is similar, but not identical, to the others.

“Maintaining a similar project budget, delivering on time and doing it flawlessly was a challenge, and we, in turn, challenged the vendors,” he continued. “They all came through to get the project done as directed.”

Project planners used experiences from Bloomfield to decide what to do and not to do and minimized risks wherever possible. For example, the original Bloomfield design included extrusion dividing while Lakeland decided to stick with traditional ram-and-knife systems. The plant also postponed installation of a fully automated pan handling system as used at Bloomfield but instead relies on Turkington APV stackers/unstackers. Bloomfield has 11 pan types, while the new line at Lakeland initially has only four.

“Bread wrapping is another example of minimizing risk,” said Jack Weinstein, corporate project engineer. “Bloomfield uses flow wrappers — a first in the industry for bread at the time. Here we went with UBE fin-seal, die-fold systems. The Lakeland inner wrap does not include easier opening fin-seal ends, but the die-fold systems are much easier for production.”

Bread feeds long-edge-leading, so height and width variation have no negative effects on the procedure. “You actually get a tighter, more custom-looking wrap by leading with the girth of the loaf,” Mr. Weinstein added. “With flow wrapping, there is, by nature of the wrapper, much tighter tolerance required on product variables because the bread has to flow through a fixed-dimension forming box where the wrapping material is formed around the loaf. The former has to be set for the tallest and widest acceptable dimensions, which leaves some loaves with loose inner wraps. It is still sealed and sanitary, just not as tight fitting.” All Pepperidge bread items are inner wrapped and bagged.

Reimelt was a key vendor for ingredient handling when the plant was built, so it was a fairly easy decision to bring that supplier in on this project to tie into and expand the current system, according to Mr. Tarr. “At Bloomfield, we use a Shick system, but for Lakeland it made sense to stay with the vendor that was already in place.”


One of the biggest challenges of the entire Lakeland project was how to complete all the improvements, physical expansion and installations without shutting down production on any of the other lines. Bloomfield, in comparison, was a greenfield project.

In addition to removing the hearth line, an additional 20,000 sq ft were needed to house the new line. Physical expansion required several steps. First, half of the bread side of the plant was isolated with a temporary floor-to-ceiling wall. Once it was in place, the hearth line was removed.

Forethought in the original structural engineering plans included tilt-panel construction for the walls. A 400-ft section of panels was tilted out and moved 45 ft outward from its original position, providing 20,000 sq ft of new space.

Infrastructure and utilities were extended and installed. Epoxy flooring was laid in the new section instead of the dairy brick used in the rest of the facility. Inner walls are a combination of insulated panel and block vs. block and tile found elsewhere in the plant.

Renovations and additions are always a bigger challenge than starting from ground zero, the managers agreed. Each manager was part of two of the three startups — Lakeland, Denver or Bloomfield. Mr. Tarr was at Lakeland and Denver for both startups, and Mr. Wright helped open Bloomfield and Lakeland. Both noted that this latest project startup was the smoothest they ever experienced.

“On the second day of mixing dough, we were able to run it through the entire line all the way through packaging,” Mr. Tarr said. “That’s unheard of. We had saleable product within 11 days. The first dough was mixed on June 2, and first-quality product shipped on June 13. Of course, a lot of stuff happened in those 11 days.”

“The line must be readied from a quality standpoint,” Mr. Tarr added. “It could have vendors still working or making adjustments to the equipment while we run dough. That product may look fine, but we wouldn’t ship it because the quality may have been compromised. It took another two weeks to get fully comfortable with the line and process and get all the kinks worked out.”

Full production started June 30. Management ran one shift until July 21 and then added a second shift. The new line requires 16 people to run and typically produces 21 SKUs daily.


Total bread output from the two lines at Lakeland went from 22 SKUs to 35. In addition to startup and qualifying existing products on the new line, the plant needed to learn 13 new products it had not previously run. “All of that was going on during startup and addition of a second shift,” Mr. Tarr said. “We were fortunate we already had the knowledge and formulas within the Pepperidge Farm family, so we were able to incorporate that knowledge more quickly than other companies might.”

New-line startup included Bloomfield supervisors and maintenance employees who all had very specific suggestions on modifications and adjustments. “We would have figured it out eventually,” recalled Mr. Tarr. “But having people with the expertise and experience on hand facilitated a rapid and smooth startup. The sharing between the two plants was extremely valuable, and not every situation or company has this opportunity very often.”


Each bread line uses four pan sets. Line No. 1 can run all products but now produces mainly 1-lb loaves as well as some 1.5-lb items and two lidded sandwich breads. Depending on the product running, the line uses either 4- or 5-strap pans.

Line No. 2, the new line, is much bigger with more throughput, thus it runs large-volume items. This includes mainly 1.5-lb products. All pan sets for this line are 6-strap. Both bread lines currently run two shifts, five days per week, so there is significant growth capacity.

Part of the installation included recommissioning silos, ingredient handling and flour brew capacity. The plant has eight 120,000-lb-capacity silos, of which seven are actively used today. Each feeds flour through Great Western Manufacturing in-line sifters as flour makes its way to mixing.

Bread production uses cream yeast, and two yeast tanks accommodate its flour brew formulation needs. Installation of the new bread line required increased capacity from the brew system, and Reimelt, which installed the entire ingredient handling system up to the mixers, modified the existing brew system and increased capacity by 50%.

Some of the improvements were a new 850-gal mix tank and additional fermentation tanks. Brew is stored in two cold-hold brew tanks — 1,500 and 2,000 gal. This is sufficient for the two bread lines as well as the roll line. Reimelt installed a new blower system for flour feeds and a new minor and micro ingredient handling system. “We also needed new mixers,” Mr. Tarr said. “The three Stephan mixers we installed for bread in 1987 were only 500-lb capacity. We now use four Peerless 2,500-lb mixers — two for each bread line — and two Stephans for rolls.”

The bread process moves standard patent and wheat flours to day bins from which flour is pulled for use. These vessels are on load cells for more accurate weighment. Adjacent to the day bin area is a bag dump room for minor ingredients.

Additional forethought went into the layout of the new bread line. There is sufficient open space for expansion not only of the line’s pan handling system, according to Mr. Wright, but also for down-the-road addition of a sheeting line for Swirl bread production.

Once raw materials are brought to the Peerless mixers, dough is mixed then dumped into a chunker hopper and dough elevator system situated on rails in front of the two mixers. Dough is chunked to the elevator and transported to an overhead conveyor that brings it to two Peerless 90-piece-per-minute dough dividers. “These dividers can deliver up to 180 pieces per minute on soft white dough, but the large number of whole-grain bread varieties produced at Lakeland requires operation at reduced speeds to deliver consistent product quality,” Mr. Wright said. “The dual divider design also provides some redundancy that assures uninterrupted production.”

After an intermediate proof, dough is moulded and deposited in the 6-strap pans, oiled using a Mallet pan oiler. A Turkington APV double-spiral continuous proofer moves pans through in about 60 minutes. Most of the new line’s products have some treatment or topping applied, and a Burford splitter/topper system treats the panned dough according to product criteria. Pans then enter the 122-ft Turkington APV directgas-fired oven where loaves bake for 25 to 30 minutes at around 400°F.

After baking, depanned product enters an I.J. White Multi-Pass dualspiral cooler. The cooling system enclosure incorporates fully insulated metal panel walls and ceiling. This energy efficient design is temperature- and humidity-controlled with filtered air. Product feeds in single file at the top of the first spiral working its way down the 20 tiers then up the second spiral. The single-file loaves then re-enter the first cooling spiral and travel back to the second spiral before exiting single file to slicing.

Once cooled, loaves are sliced on one of three AMF slicers, which feed the UBE overwrappers. All packaging lines are equipped with Safeline metal detectors and Heat and Control checkweighers. Overwrapped loaves feed either of the two Formost GT4 duallane bagging lines, which monitor and control product flow by electric eyes and diverter arms. Each bagger has a 90-loaf-per-minute capacity.

Finished product makes its way to the two Foodbotics robotic basket loading systems, which discharge full baskets to corresponding AMF basket stackers. Stacks of 17 baskets are discharged to waiting employees who move them to appropriate trucks that take the fresh product to distribution centers and depots throughout Florida.

“By using loaf counters at strategic locations — dividers, the depanner and basket loaders — we not only track yield but also pinpoint areas of product loss,” Mr. Wright pointed out. This information is used to focus improvement efforts on these areas and quickens our ability to improve operating efficiency.

“Process yield improvement is critical to the long-term success of the line,” Mr. Wright added. “There were the nuts-and-bolts and physical issues related to a smooth startup, but then there are the efforts to continuously improve yield. These efforts continue far beyond the time first-quality product comes off the line.”

For Pepperidge Farm and its Lakeland facility, knowledge, experience and dedicated employees are among its most valuable assets.