USA- Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a subsidiary of Colgate-Palmolive, celebrated the grand opening of its state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in Tonganoxie, Kansas on October 16, 2023.
This groundbreaking 365,000-square-foot facility, often referred to as a “smart” plant, represents a significant milestone for Hill’s as it will effectively double the company’s production capacity for canned pet food.
The inauguration ceremony witnessed the presence of notable figures including Noel Wallace, Chairman, President, and CEO of Colgate-Palmolive Co., John Hazlin, President, and CEO of Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Chad Sharp, Director of Manufacturing for the Hill’s Tonganoxie plant, and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly.
Noel Wallace emphasized the significance of the new plant, saying, “Hill’s is a vital part of the Colgate-Palmolive company, and our investment in this impressive new plant represents our commitment to Kansas, the growth of our business, and the advancement of our purpose. By investing in this plant, we are investing in growth. The sophistication and precision of the Tonganoxie plant will enable greater innovation in our product formulations.”
The construction of this greenfield facility, situated on over 80 acres of land, began in 2021, and operations commenced on September 22.
This facility will contribute to expanding Hill’s Science Diet and Prescription Diet brands, producing over 170 varieties of wet pet food. It incorporates cutting-edge automation and technological advancements, setting new standards within the pet food industry.
The plant’s “smart” technology includes: artificial intelligence to power a digital food safety vigilance system, automation and robotic devices, enhanced food safety systems, and end-to-end digital process/safety monitoring.
“This greenfield plant will not only help us increase our capacity to meet our demand, but it will also allow us to unlock the power of cutting-edge science to improve the lives of pets through the development and manufacture of new nutritional solutions and product formats that best serve the evolving needs of the pets and the people who care for them,” John Hazlin, the President and CEO of Hill’s Pet Nutrition stated, expressing his excitement about the new plant.
Among the advanced technologies showcased at the opening ceremony was Buddy, a robotic dog that will play a pivotal role in the plant’s operation, fetching product and formula samples for quality lab testing.
These automated technologies, combined with smart processes, will lead to faster production cycles and provide the tools necessary for the innovation of new pet food formats that support Hill’s mission to enhance the health and well-being of pets.
“Hill’s will utilize technology to work alongside staff and a new state-of-the-art Mission Control Center to provide unprecedented visibility and monitoring through every aspect of pet food making, from ingredient intake to final packaging,” Chad Sharp, Director of Manufacturing for the Hill’s Tonganoxie plant, explained.
The production process is an entirely ‘enclosed system’ from ingredient mixing to cooking and container filling – designed to prevent food exposure to environmental contaminants.
Plant receives impressive sustainability standard
The Tonganoxie plant has earned LEED Gold certification, marking it the first Colgate-Palmolive operation to achieve this sustainability standard. The plant incorporates several eco-friendly features, including a water reclamation system that treats and recycles wastewater on-site, significantly reducing water usage and promoting environmental sustainability.
Governor Laura Kelly expressed her delight regarding the facility’s opening, emphasizing its role in creating skilled jobs for Kansans. She stated, “With this new facility, Hill’s is using AI to ensure pet food meets quality and safety standards, robots to shuttle ingredients around, and other smart technology to more than double its wet pet food production capacity. It’s incredible and happening right here in Tonganoxie, Kan.”
Hill’s collaborated closely with the lead design firm Gray, the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Leavenworth County Development Corporation, the City of Tonganoxie, Evergy, and Kansas Gas Service to bring this advanced facility to fruition.
The new plant signifies a significant step forward in the field of pet food production, demonstrating Hill’s dedication to delivering high-quality nutrition to pets worldwide.