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Kerry named Business of the Year

By Staff | Jan 17, 2009

Kerry Ingredients and Flavors plant manager Doug Klukow.

Kerry Ingredients and Flavors has been named the 2008 Business of the Year in Blue Earth by the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce.

The local industry will receive the honor at the chamber’s annual meeting and banquet on Monday evening, Jan. 19.

“The criteria considered for selecting a business of the year includes business expansion, community commitment, stability and a future-oriented attitude,” says Shelly Greimann, chamber executive director. “Kerry Ingredients and Flavors certainly has many of those qualities.”

Kerry started in Blue Earth in 1987 as Custom Foods. Later it became Nuvex Ingredients, and finally was purchased by Kerry Group a few years ago.

Plant Manager Doug Klukow started with the company in October of 1988 and became plant manager in April of 2007.

“We are a cereal grain processing facility,” Klukow explained. “We make both finished ready-to-eat breakfast cereal products and also extrusion of cereal grains into industrial ingredients.”

Extrusion, Klukow says, is using a machine called an extruder to both cook and form flour into cereal products.

“We don’t do any milling here so we purchase all of our ingredients as flour products,” he says.

“The extrusion process is used in many types of processing plants,” Klukow explains. “It is the same process that makes plas-tic bags, pet food, drainage tile, and hundreds of other items.”

He describes it as similar to a child’s Play-Doh toy which squeezes the material through a form shaping it. The material is pushed out the other end in a continuous length which is later cut.

“The friction of being squeezed creates the heat which cooks the product,” Klukow says. “We control the heat, and the shapes being created.”

The machine also adds colors with food dyes. Everything made at the plant, Klukow says, is for human consumption.

The cereal made on site gets bagged and then boxed before being sent out to customers around the globe.

The industrial ingredients get sent out in bulk to other manufacturing plants. There they will be combined with other ingredients to become taco chips, granola bars and dozens of other food items.

“I think it is a bit ironic that some of our product will be shipped halfway around the globe and come back to Blue Earth and wind up on the shelves in Juba’s,” Klukow says. “I can walk through the aisles and see dozens of products that contain ingredients made in our plant here in Blue Earth.”

Unfortunately, corporate policy precludes Klukow from naming those products. Policy also prohibits photographs inside the plant.

“Like everyone else, we have our trade secrets,” he says. “Every manufacturing plant closely guards their work. Our company is no different”

Kerry Group Corporation is headquartered in Ireland, Klukow explains.

“It actually was started by some farmers in 1972 as a dairy cooperative in Listow, Ireland,” Klukow says. “In 1986 it went public, and has had explosive growth worldwide since then.”

Kerry in Blue Earth has seen growth as well. After a fire destroyed the warehouse and part of the plant in 2007, the company rebuilt a larger warehouse in 2008, adding some new machinery and employees.

“Kerry went through a difficult year when their warehouse burned,” says Greimann. “Their commitment to the employees and the community were evident throughout the rebuilding process at the Blue Earth facility. We are proud to honor them as business of the year.”