In response to consumer demand for more sustainably produced foods, other companies are doing their part to be good stewards of Mother Earth’s resources with ever increasing fervor.
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First LEED Platinum Food Plant
On June 16, 2010, Shearer’s Snacks Millennium Manufacturing facility in Massillon, Ohio attained LEED Platinum status. In achieving this prestigious distinction, the Massillon plant became what is believed to be not only the first LEED Platinum snack-food manufacturing facility in the world, but also the first LEED Platinum food manufacturing facility of any kind in the world.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home, or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, namely sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. (LEED is a registered trademark of the USBC.)
There are four levels of LEED certification, Certified (40 to 49 points), Silver (50 to 59 points), Gold (60 to 79 points), and Platinum (80 or more points).
It’s interesting to note that, at the beginning of the Massillon project, Shearer’s set the goal of simply becoming LEED Certified. The Platinum rating, LEED’s highest, that actually came to pass, far exceeded this goal.
Construction of this landmark then $10 million project began in July 2009; and the result was a brand new 47,000-foot (ft.)2 plant on 34 acres designed for the production of chips in the Shapers and Tangos lines.
“Before we started, we developed a vision for the facility,” says Mark Schwerdtfeger, Shearer’s vice president of sustainability, safety and wellness. “We wanted to create the most sustainable snack manufacturing plant we possibly could, while overcoming the limitations of our small municipal footprint. Key goals were to optimize plant layout and process flow, and also to automate building controls. We wanted all of this to allow for easy expansion.”
Manufacturing potato chips (regular and kettle), tortilla chips, extruded products (corn curls), rice crisps, multi-grain chips, cookies, and crackers, Shearer’s Snacks is a custom manufacturer and private-label producer for retailers throughout the country.
The company started in 1974 as a potato chip distributor, with manufacturing added five years later. Production in 1979 was limited to two batch kettles capable of producing 250 pounds of potato chips a day.
Today, according Schwerdtfeger, management oversees numerous production lines in eight facilities, seven in the U.S. and one in Ontario, Canada, with a total of 3,400 employees. “While they do not have LEED certification, our other existing buildings employ the same technology as our Massillon plant to be energy efficient and sustainable,” he mentions.
As the green story goes, the company co-founder and former chairman and CEO, Bob Shearer, was inspired to make sustainability part of the Shearer’s Snacks way of doing business upon hearing the General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt speak on that very subject.
Bob Shearer launched his own personal quest for sustainability in 2006 by engaging the food firm in the Energy Star Partnership Program.
“The relatively simple initial additions to the Massillon plant included replacing large motors with smaller VFD (variable frequency drive) units, installing waterless urinals, and harvesting rain water from the roof,” Schwerdtfeger says.
Since those “early days” of recognizing the importance of sustainability, Shearer’s Snacks has formalized a solid corporate sustainability mindset. “At Shearer’s, sustainability is not just a philosophy,” Schwerdtfeger emphasizes. “It’s about finding creative ways to positively impact the environment, our community, and our business. We try to incorporate sustainability in everything we do on a daily basis.”