Evidence of the recent expansion and new equipment is everywhere at Dutchland Foods, which sits on Main Street in Lester, Iowa. Dutchland added to its facility in 2003 and last year added about 12,000 square feet of production space and 5,000 square feet of office space. The original bank-turned-bakery building is now the employee break room.

“We started researching and planning the expansion around the fall of 2021,” explained Monty Van Wyhe, vice president of sales and operations. “There was a lot of thought and planning put into the building expansion as well as the new equipment we wanted to purchase.”

With the building complete, much of the equipment is up and running, but more is on the way in the next several months. The 17,000-square-foot warehouse across the street, which was built in 2019, will have two loading docks added this year in addition to the two already there. And the warehouse staging area has been expanded to create more room for shipments and deliveries. 

Dutchland is also buying the building that housed Wyhe’s Choice fundraising, which vacated to move into a new, bigger building in town. There are no current plans for that space, but it could be used for further expansion down the road.

Currently in the warehouse, operators make bulk dough twice a week using a 400-lb Rondo mixer and Rondo block line, which can produce 12,000 lbs of laminated dough in an eight-hour shift. A Vimek spiral freezer — like the new one that was just installed  across the street — is going in for this line so the doughs can go straight into the freezer to be flash frozen, an improvement from the current labor-intensive method. 

“The way we have to freeze it now is every block has to get trayed up and pushed into a -10⁰F freezer,” Monty Van Wyhe said. “Then the next day you take it back out, take every slab off the tray and package it.”

A 500-lb Mixer brand mixer is used to make fillings for the pastries and an ABS mixer sits ready to fill in as needed. The warehouse has the largest freezer onsite with space for 104 pallets, and a 60-pallet cooler stores eggs, cream and other ingredients. More freezer and cooler space is available across the street in the main building. The warehouse also has dry storage and a staging area with an Orion pallet wrapper. 

More than 90% of Dutchland’s products are stored in a freezer warehouse 45 minutes away in Worthington, Minn., before they are shipped to customers. A freezer warehouse is in the plans for Lester, but that’s a few years down the road.

The main production building houses a 76,000-lb capacity Agriflex flour silo, chiller and dosing system, which were installed in January, saving labor and storage space. Bowls from the 617-lb capacity Mixer are rolled under the dosing station for flour, then other ingredients are added manually before mixing then onto the Mixer dumping station. Both the mixer and dumping station were installed in February. Before that, the dough had to be added manually.

The dough then goes onto the Rademaker block maker line where butter is added to produce the laminated doughs. The doughs then go into either the cooler or freezer to rest for 45 minutes to a few hours, depending on the product. 

The chilled dough slabs are then loaded onto the Rademaker block processing line. The day of Baking & Snack’s visit, the dough bands were double-stacked like bricks to provide more layers for the savory lattice croissants being made. This line can make up to 110,000 pieces a day, although the line goes slower when manual labor is needed, like with the croissants that are filled by hand. 

The makeup table now produces a 26-inch-wide band for processing, but it will be replaced later this year with a 39-inch Rademaker line that will increase throughput and consistency. Also on the way is a new Form & Frys Odin machine, which will automate the process for crowns and turnovers, which were folded by hand previously. The machine can be wheeled on and off the line.

Product then goes directly into one of the plant’s newest pieces of equipment, the Vimek spiral proofer and freezer, which was installed in July. 

The frozen items are then either bagged or boxed, depending on the product, which is a mostly manual process, and then travel through an Avery checkweigher and a Sentinel 5000 metal detector. Company leaders are planning to add automation to the packaging department, but that is likely a year or more away. 

A second line used occasionally makes the company’s lard-based pie dough, which is sold at stores under the Dutchland brand, Pappy’s Pie Dough. Once mixed, the pie dough runs through a Reiser Vemag extruder, which turns the dough into pucks that can be rolled out by the consumer. They are trayed, go through an Ilapak flowwrapper then frozen. An Orion pallet wrapper serves the main production building.

As the Van Wyhes watch their careful planning come to fruition, they are already looking to the future with more automation and expansion on their wish list. But what won’t change is their path of producing high-quality treats and taking care of their customers.

“We always had the thought that if we take care of our mistakes and treat customers right, we’ll turn them into a customer for life,” said Pete Van Wyhe, president and chief executive officer. “We just want to be honest, hardworking, treat our customers right and let the business go where it goes.”   

This article is an excerpt from the August 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Dutchland Foods, click here.