Perrigo Nutritionals, Inc. unveiled its new packaging line last month at its Georgia facility in an event attended by Gov. Peter Shumlin and local officials.
Perrigo invested $29 million in developing the new packaging and installing necessary equipment for the change. The business used local companies for the construction, with Engelberth Construction of Colchester serving as the primary contractor.
“This is the most important project we’ve ever undertaken,” said Sean Walsh, vice president of operations, who oversees the Georgia facility. Walsh was present at the January 25 tour.
Perrigo manufacturers infant formula at the facility originally built by Wyeth Nutritionals in 1984. The formula is sold under a variety of labels, including store brands for Walmart, Hannaford and Price Chopper
Perrigo has applied for close to 50 patents related to the new packaging.
Perrigo CEO Joe Papa said one in four formula users purchase Perrigo formula. The new packaging will have an easy-to-remove foil liner, a scoop leveler and an elongated scoop to allow the users to reach the bottom of the container without putting their hand into it.
The new recyclable packaging involves an innovative plastic “SmarTub” that includes industry firsts, including the only 100 percent leak detection system and an anti-theft tag.
“Innovation’s been an important part of what sets Perrigo apart,” Papa said.
Some companies make large capital investments and then lay off workers, the CEO continued. That is not the case here. Instead, Perrigo plans to continue to increase its sales and potentially its employment of workers in Franklin County, he said.
Shumlin recalled asking Papa why the company chose to invest in the Georgia facility. According to Shumlin, Papa replied, “We’ve got the most innovative team you could ever ask for.”
“We are proud of you,” Shumlin told the Perrigo workers.
As part of the new line, the company added 20 employees in its packaging operations, Walsh said. The plant is searching for 20 hourly employees and four salaried staff.
Perrigo employs 331 full-time permanent employees and roughly 50 temporary workers.
Powdered skim milk and lactose for manufacturing the formula are supplied by Agri-Mark, a dairy cooperative located in Vermont.
The new packaging will be used for all of Perrigo’s lines in the U.S. and will likely be used for formula sold in Canada and Mexico. Globally, the company makes 40 different types of formula, 11 of them in the U.S.
The Georgia facility manufactures formula 24 hours a day. The packaging operation runs 20 hours, with four hours for cleaning and maintenance.
Because of the nature of the product, extensive precautions are made to ensure the environment is sterile. Ultraviolet lights destroy bacteria, the air is HEPA filtered and employees sanitize their hands whenever crossing from one part of the plant to another.
The formula is kept under quarantine and tested for seven to nine days before being shipped.
The company rarely has a problem with contamination, Walsh said: “New employees spend several days in a classroom before they even get to the manufacturing floor,” he said.