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Dover Kraft Heinz factory continues to rise

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Kraft Heinz technicians freshly bake around 200,000 loaves of bread each day. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING

DOVER —The next time you enjoy a spoonful of Stove Top stuffing, you might want to give thanks to Delaware.

The iconic stuffing mix – of which millions of boxes are reportedly sold each Thanksgiving – is one of the key product lines at the Kraft Heinz factory in Dover.

“Our production lines are all supported by specialized equipment designed to fill and package our products with safety and precision,” Kraft Heinz Dover Plant Manager Randy Puckett said.

In 2017, Kraft Heinz added specialty bakery operations to its Dover manufacturing facility, allowing workers to self-produce the bread for Stove Top stuffing products. It’s a one-of-a-kind space where skilled technicians freshly bake around 200,000 loaves of bread each day. The loaves are then “staled” for about 24 hours, before being sent to a crumbing machine to be crumbed and packaged.

Open in Dover since 1969, today’s Kraft Heinz factory is representative of a series of changes and mergers over the years. First, it was General Foods, then Kraft. No matter the iteration, the food manufacturer is consistently considered one of Dover’s top employers.

In 2015, following the merger of Kraft and Heinz, the nearby plant in Federalsburg, Md., closed while the Dover plant remained open. The aforementioned retooling of the plant to enhance Dover’s baking capabilities, plus grants totaling nearly $1.2 million from the state, led to job creation. It’s a trend that seems to be continuing.

Currently, the Dover factory at 1250 W. North St. employs approximately 600 hourly and salaried workers, Puckett said. He added that the factory is expanding its technical team and looking for skilled trades personnel, including machine operators and maintenance technicians who have prior experience with consumer goods packaging equipment.

“We champion great people who bring ambition, curiosity and high performance to the table as the guardians of our beloved and nostalgic brands,” Puckett said.

As Puckett explained, Kraft Heinz’s manufacturing operation is “a centralized, fully integrated end-to-end supply chain that aims to deliver products of the highest quality and at the best value based on customer demand.”

In other words, while it’s easy to transform a bag of dry bread cubes and seasoning into a satisfying side dish with some boiled water and melted butter, there are a few more steps to running a multinational food company.

As a globally recognized food producer, Kraft Heinz must ensure consistent product quality management across a global supply chain, as well as adhere to comprehensive food safety requirements. Suppliers are similarly expected to commit to quality requirements and guidelines.

Dover is a single link, but an integral one. It is the primary producer of Kraft Heinz powdered beverages – like Crystal Light, Country Time Lemonade and Kool-Aid – and desserts, as well as Shake ‘N Bake and Stove Top. The team in Dover crafts more than 220 million pounds of Kraft Heinz products annually, Puckett said.

Dover’s central location and proximity to major railway and roadway systems assist Kraft Heinz in being as efficient as possible in responding to customer and consumer needs. Such efficiency is increasingly important as food suppliers navigate supply chain pressures, which in recent years have been compounded by post-pandemic disruptions and rising costs.

Production schedule varies throughout the year due to product seasonality, and Kraft Heinz diversified its supplier network to better navigate supply chain pressures, Puckett said. Exploration of alternative packaging materials, which would also support broader company sustainability goals, is also on the table as a means of responding to potential disruptions.

Speaking of speed, Kraft Heinz is in the process of enhancing Dover’s technological infrastructure, which will add real-time production and machine monitoring systems across multiple areas, Puckett said. Doing so will further “drive agility and efficiency” across operations at the plant.

Puckett said he’s excited to see what shakes – and bakes – out for the future of Kraft Heinz in Dover.

“While we can’t speak directly to financials, what we can share is that Kraft Heinz remains committed to our Dover facility as well as our community and region,” Puckett said. “The plant is a critical part of our manufacturing portfolio.”

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