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J Lieb Foods expands services with purchase of Welch's Plant

Ready-to-operate facility in Kennewick, WA, triples the company’s capacity and adds flexibility in co-packaging services to Pacific Northwest.

Pw 8681 J Lieb Foods 01

Some consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) are consolidating their operations, providing forward-thinking contract packagers opportunities to improve their services.

One such co-packer is J Lieb Foods Inc., Forest Grove, OR. By purchasing a former regional facility from Welch’s, one of the nation’s leading food and beverage companies, J Lieb Foods says it is accomplishing the following:

• The additional facility increases production capacity in hot-fill PET on the West Coast.

• The company is more flexible in warehousing and logistics services.

• Better use is made of local suppliers’ facilities.

In January 2007, J Lieb Foods acquired the Welch’s plant in Kennewick, WA. Welch’s used the 210,000-sq-ft facility on 7.5 acres to produce and package its juice and jelly products, but is consolidating those operations into other plants. The purchase couldn’t have come at a better time for J Lieb Foods because production capacity was maximized at its Forest Grove plant.

Jim Lieb, president of J Lieb Foods, says the Kennewick facility is perfect for packaging its bottled fruit juices and teas, jams, salad dressings, sauces, and marinades. The facility’s ready-to-run equipment includes four complete packaging lines, a repack line, and more than two million gallons of bulk-ingredient storage capacity.

In addition, the facility offers high-velocity hot-fill capabilities in both single- and multi-serve PET bottle sizes, cans, and glass containers. Other packaging lines provide cold-fill production for frozen juice concentrates in both plastic and composite containers, as well as secondary packaging capability for variety packs, including those using registered shrink film.

“We receive more requests for production time than our Forest Grove plant can accommodate,” Lieb says. “The assets at the Kennewick plant add three times the capacity we had prior to the acquisition.”

Chuck Evans, director of operations at Welch’s, adds that “this was and is an excellent facility, and we are pleased that J Lieb Foods will continue on with a fine tradition of producing quality food products at this site.”

Plant meets regional need

Lieb explains that hot-fill PET supply is tight along the West Coast, especially for single-serve packages. “The capacity at the Kennewick plant positions us not only for growth in juices, teas, and nutritional drinks, but allows us to expand further into sports drinks and bottled water products which can utilize the onsite artesian well.”

With the new plant in Kennewick, J Lieb Foods becomes more flexible in warehousing and logistics services, adds Marty Gardner, director of operations. The company has fielded calls from CPGs across the nation seeking packaging-related services close to a Wal-Mart distribution center in Grandview, WA. The Kennewick co-packing facility is 45 miles from the distribution center.

Gardner explains that products were being shipped to the distribution center from Atlanta, GA. The long trips were expensive and transportation availability was tight.

“This localized packaging center is important for CPGs that want to have more regional packaging capability,” Gardner says. “This plant will make co-packing more viable in the Pacific Northwest.

“CPGs will send their ingredients to our Kennewick facility to have the finished goods completed and shipped, for example, to the Wal-Mart distribution center right up the road.”

Gardner also adds that the new facility operates near some of the co-packer’s key suppliers.

“Factor in the local proximity of container manufacturing facilities plus packed-product distribution opportunities, and we can partner with customers in a much wider scope than the traditional contract packager,” Gardner says. [CP]

The author, Jim George, is the Editor-in-Chief of Contract Packaging magazine.


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