Delano, Calif.-based Paramount Citrus celebrated Friday the grand opening of its new citrus packinghouse, which will be home to the company’s sweet, seedless, E-Z peel Cuties California Mandarins. The facility is more than 640,000 s.f.—the equivalent of 11 football fields under roof—making it the world’s largest citrus packinghouse.
“This new Cuties Plant gives us a lot to be proud of, but it’s not about being the biggest, it’s about striving to be the best in the industry,” said Stewart Resnick, chairman and owner of Roll Global, parent company to Paramount Citrus. “Whether it’s through our commitments to quality, innovation, operational excellence, or the use of sustainable energy, we aim to be in an industry-leading position, both for Paramount Citrus and the Cuties brand.”
The Cuties Plant was built to keep up with the demand for the small fruit that has taken the U.S. citrus market by storm, according to a news release. Last season, Paramount Citrus and its partners packed and shipped 60 million boxes of Cuties. That number is expected to reach 90 million this year; and, in less than five years, shipments are expected to reach 140 million boxes.
“We’ve planted a lot of Cuties trees over the past several years and the consumption and demand has consistently increased,” said Paramount Citrus President David Krause. “We need this facility to handle all the new volume coming on line.”
The Cuties Plant is the largest single capital investment in Roll Global’s history, and reinforces the company’s commitment to innovation, operational excellence and clean technology. Nearly every aspect of the facility is industry leading, the news release says.
• Clean technology: Half of the power used at the Cuties Plant will come from “green energy” generation. The Cuties Plant’s roof is home to a 2.7MW solar plant that will generate 15 percent of the power for the Cuties Plant, making it one of the largest customer-owned rooftop solar plants in the U.S. Additionally, a 1.6MW fuel cell, which produces electricity from natural gas with no combustion, will supply a further 35 percent of the power required to run the Cuties Plant.
• Innovative operations: The Cuties Plant features presort lines from Compac for the sizing and grading of its fruit—one of which measures in at 310 feet, making it the longest electronic grader and sizer in the world.
• Food safety excellence: The Cuties Plant was constructed using 100 percent precast concrete panels, which not only allowed the building to be constructed more quickly—construction took two years and was completed in time for this fall’s harvest—but also provide the best food safety conditions. There are no voids or ledges, making the ceiling and walls easy to clean.
Beyond the size and capabilities, the Cuties Plant also will generate increased economic development for the Delano area of California’s Central Valley, bringing with it more than 500 new jobs to the area.
“This investment by Paramount Citrus to build a new world-class Cuties facility and create 500 jobs is such a welcome benefit to the Delano area,” said Grace Vallejo, mayor of Delano. “Our city currently has an unemployment rate of nearly 13 percent, but the Cuties Plant is a big step in the right direction, offering a wide range of positions that appeal to the hardworking members of our community.”
The Cuties Plant will be operational six months out of the year (November-April), coinciding with the annual Cuties harvest. During peak season, it will run up to 20 hours a day, six days a week. The Cuties Plant will have the capacity to process 4,000 bins of fruit daily; to fill 800,000 3-pound bags each day; and to accommodate 31 million pounds of Cuties in its cold storage rooms.