As middle-class markets in countries like Russia, China and India emerge with more buying power, American food and beverage processors are scrambling for a piece of the action. But building a new plant in these countries without an engineering firm that knows its way around can be a tough prospect. Some firms have responded to the call and are doing whatever it takes to set up shop abroad.

Ken Gruenhagen, SSOE senior project manager, says his firm expanded its engineering operations in China five years ago and recently obtained a design license, allowing it to expand its scope of services within China to support its US food clients who are opening or expanding production in Asia.

Teaming up with the locals also helps engineering firms get established in a foreign country. “We have had to investigate and approve of collaboration partners for design work outside of the US,” says Scott Pribula, TranSystem’s market sector leader. “We tend to take design to a 70 percent level and let collaboration partners finish details and code compliance issues related to the region or country. Actually this work has made us more well-rounded and responsive to the marketplace, and also provides us insight to different construction delivery methods in other countries,” he adds. TranSystems has ongoing projects in Russia, Guam and South America.

The scale of growth in some foreign countries can seem unfathomable by US metrics. Food Tech has had an office in Beijing for almost 10 years, and its business grows annually. According to Mike Golden, Food Tech executive vice president, “At first, it was US companies building plants there to supply the emerging fast food industries. Now we are working with the government and private/government companies to build cold storage warehouses and food processing plants. One of our current projects is a fresh-cut fruit and veggie processing plant for Ace Fresh-Keeping. It will be the largest fresh-cut plant in China and one of the largest in the world. The product it produces will be distributed to large factory canteens where it is normal to have 100,000 + workers per shift.”