CHICAGO — Conagra Brands, one of North America's leading branded food companies, announced the opening of its new state-of-the-art vegetable processing plant in Waseca, Minn. The new 245,000-square-foot facility, which processes fresh vegetables to support Conagra's frozen meals business and Birds Eye brand, was built from the ground up with a focus on maximizing automation to create greater efficiencies and enhancing food safety throughout, the company said.
"The significant investment in our new facility in Waseca is indicative of the strong opportunity we see in our frozen foods business," said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer, Conagra Brands. "Conagra is committed to investing in innovation across the company, including our supply chain. We are also pleased to make the investment in Waseca where Birds Eye has a long history."
The peas and corn processed at the new facility come from a network of nearby growers who use a variety of actions to help fight climate change, such as smart practices to save water, support biodiversity and improve soil health. Conagra has invested in technology in the fields to monitor the plants' nutrient needs using real-time data. This allows harvesting to sync with the facility's production schedule, so that the vegetables are picked at peak ripeness and transported directly to the new Waseca facility where they are received, washed and frozen within a few hours.
"Our teams looked at every aspect of the facility to identify automation opportunities to improve productivity and modernize food safety practices throughout our operations," said Ale Eboli, executive vice president and chief supply chain officer at Conagra Brands. "The state-of-the-art design and uniquely designed equipment featured in the facility process fresh vegetables in the most efficient and responsible way possible."
The new facility replaces a 92-year-old facility in Waseca and will provide approximately 20% more capacity for processing vegetables. On an annual basis, the facility can process and produce 120 million pounds of cut and cob corn, 45 million pounds of peas and more than 20 million pounds of rice. In addition, Conagra anticipates the new facility uses approximately 25% less water per pound of product produced than the company's previous facility.