Faribault Foods named Energy City Business of the Year

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by Joni Astrup

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Faribault Foods has been named Elk River’s Energy City Business of the Year.

The company’s Elk River plant, located at 13512 Business Center Dr., makes a juice product packaged in stand-up pouches.

Elk River Environmental Administrator Rebecca Haug and John Anderson, Faribault Foods’ director of operations, with the Business of the Year award.

The Business of the Year award commends the company for a variety of initiatives. The company was honored last month in a ceremony at the Elk River Library.

Three company representatives spoke about Faribault Foods at the awards event. They were Jim Nelson, executive vice president, innovation and technology; John Anderson, director of operations; and Phil Hines, director of engineering.


Company founded in 1895 in Faribault

Faribault Foods is a fourth-generation family-owned business headquartered in downtown Minneapolis.

The company was founded in 1895 in Faribault as a vegetable cannery. Today Faribault Foods is a food processor of more than 10 different food categories including beverages, dry beans, soup, pasta, organic products and others. The company employs approximately 550 people, all in Minnesota.

Inside the processing room at Faribault Foods in Elk River.

Faribault Foods has manufacturing plants in Elk River, Cokato and Faribault as well as a warehouse and packaging center and corporate sales offices in Faribault.

The Cokato plant manufactures pasta, soup and chili and processes some vegetables, such as corn grown in the Big Lake area. Everything at that plant is canned.

The Faribault plant is the dry bean plant, handling things like kidney beans, chili beans, pork and beans, baked beans and refried beans.

The Elk River plant produces stand-up juice pouches, primarily a 6 ounce juice product. The plant produces approximately 200 million juice pouches a year. It runs 24 hours a day, five days a week.

“The plant at Elk River is probably one of the most, if not the most, technically advanced pouch plants in the U.S.,” Nelson said.

The plant can run up to 750 pouches a minute across three lines.

Locally, the juice products can be found at SuperValu under the Shopper’s Value brand, at Coborn’s under the Food Club brand and at Wal-Mart. The company’s juice pouches are also sold at Aldi.

Faribault Foods bought the Elk River plant in 2005. The plant employs 74 people; that is expected to increase to 77 by the end of June.

All of Faribault Foods’ plants are organic certified. “In fact, we do more organic canned soups than any other company in the U.S.,” Nelson said.

Faribault Foods has three distinct sales channels, including:

•six regional brands throughout the United States. They are S&W, Kuner’s, Butter Kernel, Mrs. Grimes, Chilliman and Pride of Illinois.

•a number of co-pack customers, including General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, ConAgra and B&G Foods. In those cases, Nelson said they manufacture to the company’s specifications and recipes and put the company’s label on the product.

•private label or store brands, such for entities such as Wal-Mart, Target, Aldi and SuperValu.


Sustainability program part of company

Company-wide, Faribault Foods established a sustainability program in 2010 with the “3P Philosophy” of People, Planet, Profit.

“Really sustainability just makes sense,” Nelson said. “You want to use less, you want to be more efficient, you want to treat your people right, … have good working conditions and make a profit. We’re still capitalists.”

Faribault Foods’ sustainability program encompasses a variety of components, including an annual environmental survey in which they measure the water, energy, carbon or greenhouse gas, solid waste, packaging materials and products recycled against what they produce. They are in the process of establishing 10-year reduction goals in each of those areas.

One thing Faribault Foods has implemented is a system to capture and reuse the heat produced when products are cooled with large canals of water. The first year it came online at the Faribault facility, it reduced natural gas use by 38 percent, decreased the carbon footprint by 3,000 metric tons (the equivalent of removing 577 cars from the roadway a year) and decreased water use by more than 100 million gallons a year.

Faribault Foods was honored by the city last year when the Elk River Energy City Commission awarded the company an Energy City High Five. That recognized Faribault Foods’ efforts to reduce energy use by completing a variety of energy conservation projects. Now it is the Energy City Business of the Year.

Rebecca Haug, Elk River environmental administrator, said Faribault Foods has done many things including having energy-efficient lighting, doing an energy audit, installing dock seals at the Elk River plant to prevent heat loss, mandating computer shut-down at the end of the day, using natural landscapes to save water, having auto sensors on faucets, using vending misers which turn the lights off when no one is around vending machines, purchasing paper with 30 percent recycled product, offering bicycle parking and working with Elk River Municipal Utilities to reduce energy use and cost.