Sacramento-based Blue Diamond Growers today christened its latest facility to help expand the cooperative's global almond empire.
Amid special ceremonies, the 103-year-old cooperative opened the first phase of its new manufacturing and processing plant in Turlock.
The 200,000-square-foot segment represents 40 percent of a three-phase project on 88 acres purchased by the cooperative in 2011.
The first phase created 100 jobs directly related to operations.
Mark Jansen, Blue Diamond president and CEO, said the new plant "supports the significant growth in our global almond-ingredients business with a facility that sets new standards for food safety."
Since purchasing the Turlock land, Blue Diamond has said the new facility would be a major factor in helping it meet increasing production and consumer demands. In 2011, the cooperative said there was insufficient land available at its Sacramento and Salida sites to add needed manufacturing capacity.
Blue Diamond employs nearly 1,000 in Sacramento and about 400 in Salida.
Blue Diamond surpassed the $1 billion threshold in sales last year and is continually adding almond-based product offerings for sale nationally and internationally.
The cooperative, owned by 3,000-plus growers, said it will introduce more than a dozen new almond products in the United States this year.
Product offerings now range from nondairy beverages to Blazin' Buffalo Wing-flavored almonds in a can.
The Turlock plant produces almond ingredients that go into cereals, snack bars, yogurt toppings, baked goods and candies.
"Our brand has led the world tree-nut industry in new product innovations," Jansen said. "At the same time, value-added revenues for Blue Diamond's global ingredients business exploded by 69 percent between 2009 and 2011, and almonds continue to rank No. 1 as the leading nut in new food products worldwide.
"Our expanded manufacturing capacity couldn't come at a more critical time as record demand drives us to process at a faster pace to support our global customers in their growth."
Almonds are the state's No. 1 food export - with China and Hong Kong topping the destination list, importing 236 million pounds of California almonds in 2011-12.
In recent years, Blue Diamond products were introduced in the United Kingdom, France and Australia.
Today's festivities in Turlock represented Blue Diamond's second major facility opening this year.
In March, the cooperative opened a new, 6,500-square-foot Almond Innovation Center amid its sprawling complex of buildings along C Street in Sacramento.
That center is intended to lead Blue Diamond's efforts to develop even more new almond products. Blue Diamond also wants the facility to be a destination for global food companies that want to explore the potential benefits of almond products worldwide.
The Turlock facility - at North Washington and Fulkerth roads - eventually will encompass 500,000 square feet over the next 10 years.
Blue Diamond's precursor, the California Almond Growers Exchange, was formed at the old Hotel Turclu in Sacramento on May 6, 1910. Four years later, the exchange built a humble almond hulling and shelling plant on C Street, ground zero for Blue Diamond facilities that now sprawl over 90 acres.
Today, California almond growers produce more than 80 percent of the world's almond supply. Blue Diamond says half of the state's almond growers are cooperative owners.
Call The Bee's Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.