Greencore Group wants to boost Jacksonville workforce to 450 in 3 years
Greencore Group, an Ireland-based food-preparation company, intends to boost its Jacksonville workforce from about 70 employees now to about 450 within three years.
"We have some fairly aggressive growth plans," said Greencore USA CEO Liam McClennon.
Greencore employees make sushi, sandwiches, salads and other fresh ready-to-eat foods along with ready-to-cook entrees.
They operate in the Creekside Three building in Jacksonville International Tradeport near Jacksonville International Airport in North Jacksonville.
Major clients nationwide include 7-Eleven, Trader Joe's, Publix Super Markets Inc., Winn-Dixie Stores, BJ's Wholesale Club, Kroger and Walgreens.
"We are a very labor-intensive manufacturing process," McClennon said.
The focus on fresh foods means most of the product is assembled by hand, "which tends to drive the head count," McClennon said.
"It's not an automated process," he said.
He said employees at the Jacksonville operation make sushi, sandwiches, green-leaf salads and ready-to-cook entrees, such as chicken breasts and tilapia filets with stuffing, salmon pinwheels and marinated salmon steaks.
Products also include parfaits and other products.
Products are labeled with the names of the customers, not Greencore.
McClennon said the other plants don't produce as much raw protein as the Jacksonville operation makes.
McClennon said Greencore, which is based in Dublin, has invested more than $10 million in buying and enhancing the Jacksonville plant.
He said that investment could double to $20 million by the time maximum employment is reached.
Schau said jobs will be filled in the areas of assembly and production, quality control and shipping and receiving.
Greencore seeks employees who are "eager to learn, hardworking" and have a "great attitude," he said.
"We will teach them the rest," he said.
Schau said Remedy Intelligent Staffing and Randstad are handling the applications.
McClennon said the plant also is capital-intensive because of the investment in stainless steel equipment and the sanitary environment.
Greencore USA is based near Boston in Danvers, Mass. It has six U.S. sites in Jacksonville; Chicago; Newburyport and Brockton, Mass.; Fredericksburg, Va.; and Salt Lake City.
Greencore bought the Jacksonville plant through its purchase last June of Chicago-based H.C. Schau & Son Inc.
Schau is a third-generation maker and distributor of fresh foods with facilities in Woodridge, Ill., and Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville plant opened in September 2008.
McClennon said the Jacksonville operation leases 55,000 square feet of space and currently uses about 25,000 square feet. Greencore intends to expand into the remaining 30,000 square feet of space in a year or two, he said.
Randy Schau, whose grandfather started the company, is general manager of the Jacksonville operation.
Schau, 54, said his grandfather founded the company in 1919. Schau has been working with the company since 1976.
Schau said the workforce of 70 will grow by another 100 by June. He said Greencore is working with WorkSource to staff the location, and that a Jan. 15-17 job fair at the Gateway Jacksonville WorkSource Career Center was "eye-opening" because of the number of candidates who applied.
McClennon said Greencore is the largest fresh-food supplier to 7-Eleven in North America, but doesn't service the Florida 7-Eleven stores.
He said products from the Jacksonville plant can be found in Publix, such as the salmon pinwheels; in Trader Joe's, such as the ready-to-heat chargrilled chicken with vegetables; and BJ's, such as a sushi platter.
"It tends to be highly value-added short-life refrigerated food products," he said.
McClennon said Greencore serves nearly all of the Publix stores and also services Trader Joe's, which doesn't have a presence in Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville plant concentrates on customers in the Southeast.
McLennon said Greencore has "a very clear strategy" about growth in serving customers who already sell or soon intend to provide sandwiches, lunch items and fresh snacks, such as convenience stores, coffee shops and airport vendors.
"We are focusing on that channel, anywhere you would be looking for food on the move, and also with certain grocery retailers," he said.
"We have a very clear focus on that," he said.
Schau said the Jacksonville location also serves the Walgreens stores that are beginning to add fresh food.
He said Greencore works with more than a dozen Florida Walgreens stores that are remodeling to accommodate fresh foods.
In January, Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens announced it was continuing to expand its product offerings. Among those, according to Walgreens, are "expanded grocery items and fresh food in stores for the on-the-go consumers with quick, convenient pickup, and a growing selection of healthy food choices that are important to underserved food desert communities."
As of Jan. 31, Walgreens had 854 stores in Florida, according to walgreens.com. It has not said how many of those would be remodeled for fresh foods.
McClennon said Greencore's products come from a customer's preferred supplier or another supplier that meets Greencore's standards.
"From our perspective, we want it to be as local as possible," he said. "It makes things easier from a freshness and a supply-chain perspective."
The products are shipped in refrigerated trucks.
Schau said the Jacksonville products are shipped throughout Florida, west into Texas and north into North Carolina and the corners of Virginia.
Greencore has about 11,000 employees internationally and $1.7 billion in annual sales. It operates 28 sites in the U.S., United Kingdom and Ireland, making 4,000 products across 20 categories.
For example, it says it is a leading maker of frozen Yorkshire puddings, making 530 million a year.
Greencore was established in 1991 and entered the U.S. market through four acquisitions, starting in 2008.
Schau's 2011 revenue was $32 million. Greencore said it paid $13 million in cash plus a deferred cash consideration of $4.3 million and another $2 million payable upon certain performance conditions.
Plans show functions at the Jacksonville plant, at 13949 Alvarez Road, include freezers, coolers, storage, packaging and production areas as well as a locker room, lounge, offices and other space.
McClennon said Greencore is talking with City and state representatives about economic incentives that might be available for the expansion.
"We've got an awful lot of training and the City and state have some great programs that can help with people development," he said.
McClennon said that continued expansion will be accommodated at first by expanding shifts.
"Finally, if we are successful enough, we would look for an additional plant or building, ideally on the same estate," he said.
Mike Breen, senior director for the JAXUSA Partnership international department, has been working with Greencore and said the commitment to Jacksonville shows the area is a good fit for its logistical needs.
Breen also said Greencore represents a growing food-service and food-processing industry in Jacksonville and said a few more prospects are considering the area.
He said the industry brings along a focus and skills in food- safety training and research.
Breen said should Greencore want to apply for incentives as it expands, "certainly we will work with them on that."