Though Tyson Foods closed several chicken processing and other facilities this past year in the face of falling demand, the protein giant is seeing the reverse in the bacon category. Tyson announced the opening of a new $355 million food production facility in Bowling Green, Ky., built to handle an expansion of the company’s bacon production capabilities.
The 400,000-sq-ft plant is expected to produce 2 million lb per week of Jimmy Dean and Wright Brand bacon retail products as well as bacon used in foodservice. Bacon represents over $1 billion in sales across retail and foodservice at Tyson Foods. This plant will help the company meet the needs of this category now and as it grows in the future.
Read about several Tyson plant closings in 2023:
Advanced automation and facility design
Designed with goals of improved safety and efficiency, the Bowling Green plant incorporates high-tech robots that help eliminate ergonomically stressful tasks such as transporting large pork bellies along multiple production lines, and packing and stacking boxes. Driverless forklifts and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) safely move product through production zones.
The company is also helping team members improve their skills by partnering with Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKYCTC) to offer relevant technical training, including a robotics lab.
“Our innovative new plant in Bowling Green reflects a major investment that we are proud to make in southcentral Kentucky,” says Donnie King, president and CEO of Tyson Foods.
Demand for bacon
With Jimmy Dean seeing significant growth over the past two years and Wright Brand products rising to the No. 1 consumer choice at retail in the stack category, according to Nielsen data, the new facility represents a significant opportunity for Tyson Foods to further innovate with new bacon flavors, cuts, and products such as fully cooked bacon.
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“Bacon is a growing category based on consumer demand, both at home and at restaurants, and our expanded production will enable us to lead this growth and drive innovation,” says Melanie Boulden, group president of Prepared Foods and chief growth officer.
Tyson Foods selected Bowling Green due, in part, to its proximity to raw materials in the pork supply. It also enables end-to-end profitability by using pork bellies provided primarily by Tyson Foods’ pork segment.