Where: Longmont, Colorado
Headquarters: Orrville, Ohio
Publicly traded (NYSE: SJM)
Employees: 7,140 (about 5,000 in manufacturing)
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Jellies, jams, and other foods; coffee; pet food and treats
The jam giant has flipped the switch at its first manufacturing facility in Colorado: a 430,000-square-foot sandwich factory in Longmont.
The J.M. Smucker Company needs no introduction.
The market leader in jams and jellies owns brands ranging from Jif to Folger's to Milk-Bone made at 25 plants across the U.S.
Smucker launched Uncrustables in 2000 and has seen sales of the crustless, sealed sandwiches jet from $10 million to more than $200 million in the years since.
Until 2019, every Uncrustables sandwich was manufactured at a plant in Scottsville, Kentucky as the brand grew by double digits for more than a decade. With more than 500 employees, the Kentucky plant's 2019 output will be about 650 million Uncrustables sandwiches, now available in eight varieties.
Where Smucker manufactures
Opening in July 2019, Smucker's new, $340 million Longmont facility will produce about 100 million Uncrustables in its first six months of operation.
"It really started with freight and logistics and where we wanted to be on the map," says Randy Day, Smucker's VP of operations. "We draw a circle and say where can we find the most talent, and that brought us to the Denver metro area. . . . I think as you move forward with what we're doing in a manufacturing area, that's probably the key thing: How do we find, retain, and develop the most talent?"
But the root cause for the plant was growth for the Uncrustables brand. "We've been growing it at double digits for the last decade-plus, and we've continually been behind the eight ball in terms of capacity," says Day. "We're trying to build sites closer to where our customers are. . . . [Longmont] should be able to serve the West pretty well."
Describing "an integrated bakery with a sandwich operation," Day says, "It allows us to do something really simple, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and make it better. It's a simple concept, but it's not easy to execute."
It's all about baking consistent Uncrustables bread: "This is a unique bakery that produces a very specific loaf that is designed for our product."
The plant is currently in its first phase of a buildout with the bakery and two high-speed packaging lines, with a third on the way in the first half of 2020. The location is currently home to 225 employees, and Day says that it will hire about 50 more by the end of 2020.
Smucker's team tweaked the recipe for Longmont's elevation (4,984 feet above sea level). Automation allows for precise ingredient placement and bread crimping to avoid "leakers," says Day. "There's a lot of cool technology we've built into that process."
The operation is building on lessons learned in Kentucky with machine vision and learning, he adds. "We've produced billions of sandwiches. We have a lot of data. How do we leverage that data to be more predictable? That's the breakthrough at Longmont."
The end target is 600 perfect Uncrustables a minute. At capacity, that could translate more than 700 million sandwiches in a year at Longmont, but Day projects hitting 250 million in 2020.
At Smucker, continuous improvement tends to look at the long game. "We've been working on this since 1897," says Day. "It all probably starts, frankly, with commit to quality. It starts with Jerome Smucker in 1897 and goes all the way forward through five generations of family."
Day says that the driver is growing demand for "kid-friendly, family-friendly, portable, on-the-go" foods like Uncrustables. It's the soccer game. It's the after-school activity."
Longmont will support that growth. The project's second phase includes a bakery expansion. The total staff could hit 500.
Day says Smucker could also be looking to open a full-fledged campus in the West where the company manufactures more than one brand in the future. "TBD," he says of timing and location.
"One of the things were proud of is the careers we offer for people," he adds. "What's cool about Smucker is that you may start in a manufacturing area, but you're not likely to end up there. We cross-pollinate between the science part of the business into research and development and into our marketing and sales group."
While nothing is official, Smucker could also introduce new Uncrustables sandwiches for its hungry target market. "We think there are some natural progressions for the platform," says Day.