- Tyson Foods broke ground Wednesday on its new 400,000-square-foot Bowling Green, Kentucky facility that will produce bacon products for its Wright and Jimmy Dean brands. The plant, which was first announced in October, will create 450 jobs. It is expected to become operational in late 2023.
- The company said the $355 million plant will help the Arkansas-based meat and poultry processor address the increased retail and foodservice demand for bacon products.
- Tyson is the latest company to move forward with a construction project in order to meet increased demand — much of it spurred on by a jump in consumption during the ongoing pandemic.
As consumer interest has surged for many protein-rich products during the last few years, Tyson has moved aggressively to make improvements to its operations. The company has committed to spending $1.3 billion on automation during the next three years to improve production capacity and efficiency. Tyson said last October that the new Kentucky bacon plant will feature “state-of-the-art” robotics and automated technologies.
As bacon consumption has increased, consumers have had to pay more at the supermarket. Meat processors like Tyson are aiming to capitalize on the growing demand by increasing their production. Prices for the pork product have increased 18.6% during the last year, the government showed in its Consumer Price Index report last month.
The construction of the new plant is the latest move by Tyson when it comes to bacon. Last year, the company said it would invest $26 million to expand its Wright bacon-producing facility in Vernon, Texas. In this announcement, Tyson highlighted the 18% increase in bacon volume dating back to 2017 as new people enter the category and existing buyers consume more of the product.
In its most recent quarterly earnings call in November, Tyson CEO Donnie King pointed out that the strong performance of brands such as Jimmy Dean has resulted in 13 quarters of continued share growth. King said the construction of new facilities will allow the company to combat inflation and increase its capacity amid the supply chain crisis.
Other companies also have responded to the rise in demand for pork products. Last October, JBS USA's Swift subsidiary purchased Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats, a large producer of fully cooked bacon, for $90 million.
The meat industry is not the only segment of the food and beverage space to build new facilities in response to heightened demand. According to an analysis by Food Dive last year, more than 70 manufacturing expansions were announced or completed in 2021 by food manufacturers. At least half of the states in the U.S. saw at least one new food industry facility last year.