Olivia McClure | 3/12/2018 6:45:05 PM
The LSU AgCenter is converting a warehouse to a bottling plant that will serve entrepreneurs working at its Food Incubator who have outgrown smaller production facilities.
The project is expected to be completed in May 2018. The 4,500-square-foot plant will be able to process 1,400 gallons of dressings, beverages and other liquid products — which are among the most popular items made at the incubator — per day, said incubator director Gaye Sandoz.
The Food Incubator, which opened in 2013, provides kitchen space, equipment, marketing advice and scientific services to food companies, particularly small start-ups. The new bottling plant will be located at the intersection of Gourrier Avenue and West Parker Boulevard on the LSU campus.
The plant will fill a void seen by incubator tenants with fast-growing customer demand, Sandoz said. Some tenants need to make large batches of products, so it’s inefficient to continue using the small-scale bottling equipment the incubator has at Ingram Hall at LSU. But they still don’t make or sell enough to sign on with a co-packer, which is a facility that manufactures products on their behalf.
“We want to get to a level where they can increase their volume and sales, then we can hand them off to the co-packers and keep them in Louisiana,” Sandoz said.
Tenants can bottle a maximum of 1,500 8-ounce containers per day with the incubator’s current equipment. The new plant will be able to handle 22,400 bottles daily, Sandoz said.
The plant also will help alleviate space constraints at incubator facilities in Ingram Hall and the Animal and Food Sciences Laboratories Building.
“The companies that are successfully selling are storing their raw and processed goods here at Ingram,” Sandoz said. “We’re running out of storage space and production time for our new tenants.”
The plant facility has a loading dock and forklift. And because it is located on the outskirts of the Baton Rouge campus, large trucks will no longer have to go through congested areas to deliver ingredients and pick up finished products.
“When you’re small, you bring in a trunk-load of bottles and ingredients,” Sandoz said. “As you grow, you buy by the pallets. It’s going in or out in big lots.”
Another potential use of the facility is as a pilot plant for existing Louisiana food companies that want to make small volumes of new products.
Other incubator upgrades — such as replacing freezers and renovations to create additional kitchen space — are being planned.
Olivia McClure is a writer and photographer with LSU AgCenter Communications.
(This article appears in the winter 2018 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
Gaye Sandoz, director of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, is at the warehouse that will be converted to a bottling plant for the benefit of tenants trying to meet growing demand for their products. The plant is expected to be completed in May 2018. Photo by Olivia McClure