No, this is not the answer to a Jeopardy question. Nor is it a new wave food that cures cancer. These four simple words describe four new fabulous plants.

Who says America is on a diet? Just try to convince the ice cream/frozen novelty and confectionery industries that consumers are avoiding sweets and treats. Furthermore, try convincing consumers that price, and not quality or authenticity, is the only issue when purchasing staples such as pasta or soy sauce.

Four new fabulous food plants exemplify the latest trends in manufacturing and construction innovations.

Good Humor-Breyers' plant in Sikeston, MO, recently completed its first new plant in 25 years, capable of producing 1.2 million ice cream and water-ice novelties per day.

Barilla's super fast-tracked, fully integrated mill and pasta plant project is the company's first U.S. operation.

Kikkoman Foods just completed its second U.S. manufacturing plant bringing its traditional fermentation processes to California.

Russell Stover's completion of its third confectionery plant in four years continues to satisfy America's sweet tooth.

Novelties for All

Company: Good Humor-Breyers
Location: Sikeston, MO
Total Plant Size: 200,000 sq.-ft. on 40 acres
Completion Date: March 21, 1998
No. Employees: 150
Cost: $35 million
Products Produced: Popsicle®, Starship and Towering Tornado ice pops, Big Stick® and Fudgesicle® products, Klondike® cones and Big Bear sandwiches and Nickelodeon® Green Slime.
Volume: 1.2 million novelties/day
Architect/Engineers: Mead & Hunt, Madison, WI

As one of the top runners-up to Food Engineering's Plant of the Year, Good Humor-Breyers' (GHB) new plant represents the company's largest investment in history.

The plant was built in only 11 months, despite "El Niño"-inspired rainfall, and is the second GHB facility in Sikeston. In a unique management arrangement, both facilities -- located seven miles apart on opposite ends of the city -- are operated as a single plant with one management team: all management support functions have responsibility for both plants.

Expandability, flexibility, food safety and product quality were integral plant design features. Its three current production lines run in straight-line configurations and the plant was built to enable quick expansion up to 10 lines with the same straight-line design.

The plant can be expanded to accommodate 30 production lines. "Each area of the plant can be expanded independently," says Kirk Heissel, GBH's project manager. "Base piping, ducting systems and space for additional compressors to support the much larger operation are already in place."

However, there is considerable flexibility built into the existing manufacturing system. The facility can make any type of water-ice or ice cream that GHB manufactures. For example, one rotary stick-products line can produce either water-ice or ice cream products in schemes ranging from 13 to 26 units wide and 132 rows of molds depending on product and product shape. The 1.75-oz. bars run at 2,600 dozen per hour.

Another line can produce products of three different shapes or two different products containing up to five individual flavors.

The tray tunnel extrusion line produces cones and sandwiches and is one of the most versatile novelty machines on the market. It includes product plates mounted onto an endless conveyor chain and a hardening tunnel. Products ranging from simple ice cream slices to complex cakes with multiple decorations are assembled directly on the plates by specialized dispensing heads and mechanisms.

This machine can also run about 1,500 dozen 4.6- and 7-oz. cones per hour. By attaching specialized grippers, cones lower into a chocolate dip and through a nut dispenser. The line uses six pick-and-place robots to transfer products from one station to another along the process.

"Mix recipes and procedures are databased on a central computer at GHB's corporate headquarters in Green Bay," adds Heissel. "This allows flexible manufacturing while providing product consistency within the GHB system and between plants."

Sanitation was a major concern in plant design. "We have four ultra-clean vestibules leading into the 60,000 sq.-ft. production area," says Heissel. "All individuals and materials must use one of these. Materials used in production are placed on controlled pallets, plastic wrapped and placed in a vestibule. A dedicated hand jack then picks up the pallet for delivery into the production hall."

Quality impacts were one of the predominant characteristics of plant design. Segregating each department minimizes chances of cross-contamination and potential for hygienic degradation. Two-stage filtered air handling minimizes airborne contaminants. Fabric air diffuser tubes in the production hall provide added filtration and are easily removed for cleaning.

Some plant suppliers include: A&B Process Systems (Stratford, WI), APV Heat Transfer Tech. (Tonawanda, NY), APV Homogenizer (Wilmington, MA), APV Tanks and Fabricated Products (Lake Mills, WI), DCI Tanks (St. Cloud, MN), Fristam (Middleton, WI), Gram Equipment (Tampa, FL), Lightnin Mixer (Rochester, NY), Paul Mueller (Springfield, MO), Tetra Pak Hoyer (Pleasant Prairie, WI), Tri-Clover Inc. (Kenosha, WI), Walker Stainless (New Lisbon, WI), Waukesha Cherry-Burrell (Delavan, WI).

Fast Track from Italy

Company: Barilla
Location: Ames, IA
Total Plant Size: 420,000 sq.-ft.
Completion Date: September 1998
No. Employees: 140 Cost: $137 million
Products Produced: Eleven varieties of short-cut pasta including elbows, penne rigate, cut ziti, rotini and others
Volume: Eight tons/hr. total pasta output
Architect/Engineers: McClier (Chicago, IL)

Barilla had been importing its short-cut pasta products from Italy for many years. However, consumer demand became so great in the past five years that a U.S. plant was justified. When that decision was made in 1997, the process could not move fast enough.

This super-accelerated design-build job incorporates a fully integrated pasta milling and production operation, touted to be the largest short-cut pasta plant in the world. Ground breaking occurred September 10, 1997 and equipment was being installed in February 1998, a mere five months later.

Prior to completion of the plant, Barilla had been importing its products to the U.S. somewhat haphazardly. Ten-week trips on cargo ships, periodically plagued by North Atlantic storms, as well as import tariffs has been expensive for the company. Eliminating these costs, Barilla could save more than $1 million for every month the new plant is running at full capacity.

"We had to be sure that product coming out of this plant was identical to products that U.S. consumers were already buying -- in taste, texture, appearance and overall quality," said Dave Bramow, plant manager. "Wheat properties through grinding specifications, extrusion moisture and pressure, drying temperatures and humidity and other process parameters had to match the currently Italian-imported Barilla product.

"Our process is very unique," continues Bramow. "Even the number of directional turns and conveyor transfers our dough and extruded pieces endure affects their quality and consistency." The plant runs 1,200 ft. long allowing straight-through production and minimizes stress on the pasta while in process.

With potential product cost savings for Barilla, project completion was always a crucial factor. "Design-build was the only way to go on this project," says Chris Martersteck, McClier's project manager. "It allowed us to start the project while still making decisions on layout, contractors, materials and other factors. Many parts of the project were already under construction before design was compete."

Throughout the project hundreds of change-order improvements created constant challenges to engineers, designers and constructors. Changes ranged from the size of a door frame; to doubling the project value by adding a mill and silo operation; to literally rotating the entire facility's layout. "We actually rotated the layout while the land was being graded and only days before excavation was to begin," recalls Martersteck. "During one of our weekly meetings with Barilla, we realized we could reduce a rail delivery track from three miles to one and avoid the track from having to wind around the facility thereby saving considerable cost and inconvenience."

Barilla's mill/silo was erected using slip-form technology. It is the largest slip-form mill project in the world, according to McClier. It reaches 160 ft. in the air, spans 160,000 sq.-ft. and includes 15, 28-ft.-diameter silos. With slip-form, mill and silo walls were erected as one single pour of concrete. Forming the entire structure's shape, the five-ft. tall slip-form mold received a continuous concrete pour for nine straight days, 24-hours a day. Seventy-five jacks elevated the huge slip-form about eight inches per hour off the mill/silo's five-ft. thick foundation. Adding this method to the whole project's design-build system reduced mill construction from 24 to only 16 months.

Some plant suppliers include: Alliant Utilities (Cedar Rapids, IA), Buhler (Minneapolis, MN), Cryovac (Duncan, SC), Kimberly Clark (Roswell, GA), Lantech (Louisville, KY), OCME (York, PA), Videojet (Wood Dale, IL), Zenger Miller (King of Prussia, PA), Packital (Italy), Sasch Packaging (Italy), Stavelli (Italy), Zucchini (Italy).

Shoyu Culture

Company: Kikkoman Foods
Location: Folsom, CA
Total Plant Size: 95,000 sq.-ft.
Completion Date: May 1998 (through fermentation), October 1998 (official opening)
Cost: $46 million
Products Produced: Soy sauce
Volume: 2.6 million gallons annually
Architect/Engineers: The Food Group, (an affiliate of IDC) Portland, OR

Kikkoman Foods has been naturally processing soybeans and wheat into Shoyu (soy sauce) for 300 years. Last October, Kikkoman dedicated its second U.S. plant: A state-of-the-art facility that adheres to ancient processes while using innovative, modern processing systems.

As a runner-up in Food Engineering's 1999 Plant of the Year competition, construction of Kikkoman's Folsom, CA, facility fought nature's fury, yet was completed on time and on budget. El Niño of 1998 was described as one of the worst in history, bringing more than 200 percent of normal rainfall to California.

Due to rigid time constraints, mass coordination was necessary during construction. The walls and roof needed to go up fast to dry the building and install equipment. Yet some equipment was too large to be installed after completing this portion and necessitated pre-placement. Chain conveyors were brought in through open wall panels in 10-ft. sections then linked together on site.

Kikkoman's naturally brewed soy sauce requires a multi-month fermentation period, breaking construction into two phases. The first phase needed to be complete by May 1998 and encompassed about 85 percent of the total project and included fermentation systems. Remaining operations -- pressing, pasteurization and filling -- were installed after phase one was finished, yet before the first actual fermented product was ready.

One major challenge was to upgrade and incorporate technologies developed at Kikkoman's Walworth, WI, plant, which has been expanded nine-fold in its 25-year history. "We had other overriding priorities in this project as well," says Mitchio Kiuchi, head of Kikkoman's engineering project team. "We sought to use local equipment as much as possible, design the facility to anticipate growth, so future expansions would not disrupt exterior appearances and also utilize local resources to their fullest."

"Our process is highly sophisticated yet only three managers come from other Kikkoman facilities," notes Hiroshi Futamura, plant manager, who spent seven years at the Wisconsin plant and 14 years at Kikkoman in Japan before returning to run the new plant.

Improved efficiency through advanced processing, packaging, automation and controls technologies, while not compromising the honored practices of traditional soy sauce brewing, allows the 95,000 sq.-ft. plant to produce more than 2.6 million gallons of product annually. Representatives from Japan were dispatched several times to provide on-site review.

From Koji to Moromi

Continuous collaboration and equipment modifications were necessary to meet Kikkoman's unique processes, stringent cleanability and minimal long-term maintenance requirements. "For example, the use of rollers and bearings is minimized in process areas of the plant to eliminate moving parts and reduce future maintenance," says Ralph Ketchum, head of the construction group at IDC. "We used Ultra-High Molecular Weight plastic guides which are rotated one-quarter turn every four months. We also specified fiberglass piping throughout the plant, and fiberglass fermentation tanks considering the susceptibility of metal to degradation caused by salt included in brine and soy sauce."

After soybeans are cooked in a proprietary process called "puffing," they combine in a customized mixer with crushed wheat and the company's genealogical strain of seed starter. The blend, called "koji," travels to a koji bed that begins a three-day culturing process.

While delivery of koji is automated, its success combines old and new methodologies and was the most innovative area of the plant. The bed is a disk approximately 30 ft. in diameter, perforated to facilitate airflow. Housed in a multi-story tower with controlled humidity and ventilation, koji must be deposited on the bed in exacting thickness for even and desired speed of starter growth rate throughout the medium.

The bed steadily rotates beneath a telescoping charging conveyor. As it passes over the bed, the conveyor must constantly adjust its telescoping rate and conveyor speed depending on its location. This compensates for the bed rotating faster at the outside than the inside and required complex calibration of the bed's rotation rates with the constantly changing conveyor belt location.

Further complicating this process stage is a series of mixing helixes integrated into the koji bed. These helixes must also adjust their rate of rotation based on their individual location in the bed so the degree of mixing will be the same in the slow-moving center as it is at the faster-moving outer reaches of the bed.

Cultured koji is pumped to fermentation tanks where saltwater brine (made on site) and a proprietary yeast formula combine to create "moromi" and begin the fermentation stage. Fermented moromi, with a heavy paste consistency, is pumped to the final process stage.

Automated feeding systems spread moromi onto layers of food-grade screening fabric intricately stacked within one of three, three-story tall pressing towers. The towers are located on a raised "super-flat" slab. A hydraulic press draws off raw liquid soy sauce, which is filtered and high-temperature short-time pasteurized to halt enzymatic activity and stabilize color and aroma.

Some plant suppliers include: APV (Lake Mills, WI), Moyno Industrial Products (Springfield, OH), MAC Equipment (Kansas City, MO), Martin Sprocket & Gear (Arlington, TX), Welliver Metal Products (Salem, OR).

Sweet Tooth in Texas

Company: Russell Stover Candies Inc.
Location: Corsicana, TX
Total Plant Size: 462,000 sq.-ft.
Completion Date: March 1999
No. Employees: 500
Cost: $40 million
Products Produced: Boxed and molded candies, cordials
Volume: 128,000 lb. per day
Architect/Engineer/Constructors: The Austin Company (Cleveland, OH)

The International Association of Food Industry Suppliers (IAFIS) recently reported on the booming confectionery market where per capita consumption increased more than eight pounds in the last 15 to 20 years. Consumption of chocolate assortments increased 40.8 percent from 1990 to 1996, according to Department of Commerce figures. None of this is surprising to Russell Stover, the largest boxed chocolate manufacturer in the U.S., who just completed its third new plant in four years.

"Design of the plant was relatively simple," says Brian Calovich, Russell Stover's corporate engineer. "We took the general plan from our Abilene, KS, plant completed four years ago, then made improvements based on new technologies and lessons learned. We literally sat down with Abilene employees and asked, 'If you had the chance to do this plant over again, what would you change or do differently?"

Two other factors made this project a success. One, The Austin Company has engineered and built Russell Stover's three most recent plants including the Abilene facility; and two, Plant Manager Tracy Leach, who was closely involved in the Abilene start-up, was transferred to Corsicana for the same purpose.

"Why reinvent a good piece of chocolate?" quips Leach. "The basic layout of production and ancillary functions have worked well for us in Abilene. We just made improvements based on experience. Some of the differences as to production capabilities are the addition of a molding line, and taking advantage of technologies that were added to Abilene in the past few years."

Production flow is a straight shot from receiving to cook kitchen, depositing and enrobing through cooling, product staging, packaging and warehousing. Peripheral hallways allow supplies to directly go where they are needed without disrupting production. Other pre-process and control rooms are also located on the perimeter of the 128,000 sq.-ft. production and packaging hall.

Attention to detail, small batch sizes, manually intense labor and vertical integration are recurring traits in Russell Stover plants. "Sugar, for example, is transported via screw conveyor versus pneumatics to preserve crystal integrity, which significantly affects our product's mouthfeel, texture and overall quality," says Leach.

Additionally, the plant reprocesses all incoming nutmeats. Pallet loads are visually and organoleptically inspected, then fumigated in one of two on-site chambers. "We feel this extra measure is critical to our quality even though incoming nuts claim to be pretreated and screened," notes Leach.

Russell Stover is still the only major candy company hand-dipping its chocolate-covered cherries. "We visually inspect cherries for pits on a light table then dip them in cordial," continues Leach. "They are metal detected before and after dipping, then quickly transported to an adjacent room where they are hand-dipped in milk or dark chocolate."

The 40,000 sq.-ft. cook kitchen is broken down into work cells and batch sizes are limited to 150 lb. "This allows better control, reduces quality risks and it is more practical," explains Leach. "Our assortment boxes contain up to 29 different types of chocolates and each has to be made and staged before we can start packaging."

In a true blend of old versus new, packaging processes range from long lines of hand-packing manual workers, to a state-of-the-art, 29-station robotic pick-and-place system from a Swiss company called Sapal. "Each station on the Sapal places one type of candy based on a pre-set assortment configuration," notes Calovich. The Sapal is geared for 60 cycles per minute and changeovers are as quick as changing molds and box lanes.

The plant has gotten off on solid footing...literally. "Extensive soil analysis proved a crucial component to this job," notes Calovich. "Contrary to our other facilities, this plant is built on piers versus spread footings. Soil expansion of up to four inches due to changing weather conditions necessitated plasticizing the soil with lime then drilling and pouring hundreds of piers all the way down to bed rock."

Some plant suppliers include: The Austin Co. (Cleveland, OH), Adept Technology (San Jose, CA), Ameripak (Ivyland, PA), Baan (Santa Clara, CA), Groen Kettles (Elk Grove Village, IL), Hobart Mixers (Troy, OH), Ishida-Heat and Control (Hayward, CA), Kl¿ckner-Hansel Kettles (Sarasota, FL), Lantech (Louisville, KY), Mueller Kettles (Springfield, MO), Niagara Blower Co. (Buffalo, NY), Safeline (Tampa, FL), Shanklin (Ayer, MA).