Sustainable by design: Kerry’s expanded Rome plant seeks to be locally sourced, environmentally friendly
“Locally sourced” and “renewable” are often buzzwords to sell a product, and there’s good reason for that — Kerry’s $137 million expansion in South Rome is betting on it.
Marketing surveys show that customers care about the environmental impact of creating a product as well as a company’s commitment to sustainability.
Kerry’s Rome facility was designed with the idea of using renewable energy to offset its carbon footprint, with a goal of sending zero waste to local landfills by the end of 2022. The process of what they term “waste optimization” primarily directs any waste created to be used as animal feed.
“The sustainability ethos is very important to us and to the Kerry group,” Kerry board chair Philip Toomey said during a ribbon-cutting at the facility this week.
Kerry produces food coatings at the massive 315,000-square-foot facility off Douglas Street. For the layperson, that means the breading that goes on a chicken sandwich or the batter used for a panko crust.
Sounds simple right?
That’s not just it. The facility is also a one-stop-shop flavor and texture research and development lab, taking a customer’s idea from dream to fruition.
While Rome is home to Kerry’s North American flagship site, it’s not the only location in Northwest Georgia. Kerry also has a factory in Calhoun that’s more specifically geared for smaller batches of unique products.
Kerry took over the old Southeastern Mills seasoning and coatings division late in 2018 and made a massive investment to nearly double the capacity of the plant.
“In hindsight, 2020 probably wasn’t the year to start building,” Toomey said. “There have been trying circumstances over the past two years.”
However, he continued, it’s paying off now and has the company well-positioned to succeed.
Cheryl Burn, Kerry’s vice president of quality, safety, and environment for the North American region, said the company has implemented several programs in order to reduce waste and protect the communities it invests in.
The company has bulk silo storage to reduce waste from transport as well as central recycling and baling locations onsite to maximize recycling.
In addition, she said they import 50% of the raw materials used at the plant from within 150 miles of the facility. Overall, 95% of the raw materials used in the Rome plant come from within North America.
The overall goal is to benefit local economies as well as reduce carbon emissions.
The multinational conglomerate is based in Ireland and isn’t limited to food-related items. Kerry also has its fingers in pharmaceuticals. They make products used in vaccines as well as some that span the borders of medicine and food — like the flavoring in your child’s medicine.