ConAgra Foods recently capped off a transformational year acquiring Ralcorp and also growing its core business with a plant expansion in Russellville.
CEO Gary Rodkin noted in the company’s recent annual report that the integration of the Bertoli and PF Chang’s frozen meal business is one way its leveraging its strengths.
ConAgra Foods broke ground in March on a $100 million expansion to a plant in Russellville where it plans to add 80 new jobs. The new jobs will raise the total employed at the plant to 1,300 over the next two years.
It plans to produce Bertolli and P.F. Chang’s frozen meals at the facility. The company acquired these brands last year as part of its effort to devote more of its business to frozen foods.
The Russellville facility, in operation since 1964, produces Banquet, Healthy Choice and Marie Callender’s products.
“We’re excited to apply our transformational approach to innovation to these great brands, while taking advantage of opportunities to expand brand reach through strategic adjacencies such as desserts,” he said in the report. “We’re applying what we’ve learned through the Marie Callender’s dessert pie business — where we’re driving category growth of 5% annually — to reach new consumers.”
The first several months of ownership of Ralcorp have opened eyes for ConAgra executives, Rodkin said.
“Through our new, larger scale, we are better positioned when it comes to product sourcing and supply chain efficiencies,” he noted. “We’ve already begun to realize some of these synergies and expect to continue to identify additional sales-related opportunities as the integration progresses. We expect to achieve $300 million in annual cost savings by the end of fiscal year 2017.”
ConAgra also succeeded in its goal of expanding internationally, Rodkin said. In the fiscal 2013 annual report, he noted that net sales of Act II popcorn increased 10% in the 13 weeks ended March 24, according to data from Information Resources Inc., a market research firm based in Chicago.
Two other international success stories were ConAgra’s affiliate, Agro Tech Foods, in India and Lamb Weston.
Agro Tech in fiscal 2013 launched peanut butter under the Sun Drop brand and is in the process of building a facility to locally produce the peanut butter in India.
Meanwhile, ConAgra is expanding its Boardman, Ore., Lamb Weston facility to meet growing demand, especially from international markets. Rodkin said Lamb Weston sells to 2,500 customers in more than 100 countries, and in fiscal 2013 Lamb Weston’s international sales increased nearly 9%.
“We’re projecting continued, dynamic international growth in the future,” he said.
ConAgra is a supplier to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and operates a sales office in Northwest Arkansas.