BURLINGTON — After a half-century of chocolate production, the Nestlé plant in Burlington has begun a transformation from candy to cookie dough products.
Work has started inside the plant at 637 S. Pine St. to retool the operation, in what Nestlé officials have called the plant’s biggest makeover since production began here in 1966.
City officials have issued a building permit for an estimated $24 million worth of interior demolition and expansion at the plant to allow the changeover to a new product line centered on Nestlé’s popular refrigerated cookie dough.
A construction team led by Appleton-based Boldt Co. is working inside the company’s 45-acre complex in Burlington.
City Building Inspector Gregory Guidry said he has visited the construction site several times in recent days, and he has seen extensive renovation work in progress.
Referring to an area where work is taking place inside the plant, Guidry said: “They just gutted the whole thing. It’s wide open.”
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Boldt project manager Josh Juedes said the plant retooling has gotten off to a good start.
“We just got started,” Juedes said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”
Juedes declined to comment further, referring questions to Nestlé management. Plant manager Patrick Miner could not be reached for comment, and other Nestlé officials declined to comment or to permit access to the Burlington construction site.
The company previously cited hopes of beginning cookie dough production in Burlington in spring or summer of 2022.
Nestlé unveiled plans for the plant makeover this summer, seeking city approval for what company officials said would be the biggest change since the Pine Street facility opened 55 years ago. Combining construction work with new equipment installation, officials said the project represented a $70 million investment.
Initial plans called for building a 7,700-square-foot addition as well as new truck docks, unloading areas and warehouse space for delivery of cookie dough ingredients. Three additional trucks will deliver supplies daily, filling up new storage tanks standing 65 feet tall.
The plant will continue making chocolate chip morsels along with the Toll House cookie dough. But production will stop in Burlington for such longtime candy favorites as 100 Grand bars, Nestlé Crunch bars, Buncha Crunch and Raisinets.
Production of cookie dough is being transferred from a Nestlé plant in Danville, Virginia, giving the Burlington facility a new lease on life. Employment at the plant is expected to remain at about 400 people.
In addition to a building permit application on file at City Hall, the company’s designers at Power Engineers Inc., based in Hailey, Idaho, have submitted about 100 pages of plans for the project.
The building permit alone cost $63,380.
The plans describe an expansion on the plant’s west side, plus installation of new product lines, an enlarged loading dock, new silos and new wastewater treatment facilities. Also shown are areas for vanilla storage, flour and sugar dehumidifying, bulk ingredient mixing and finished product cooling.
Josh Isely, one of the plant’s designers at Power Engineers, said he has worked before for Nestlé, as well as other food companies.
Isely would not discuss details of the Burlington factory plans, except to say that the project was “technically interesting” to work on.
“It was a fun project to do,” he said.
Plans reflect plumbing, electrical, mechanical and heating work, as well as masonry and structural steel.
Guidry said the $24 million building permit covers the entire project. So if Nestlé’s planned investment is $70 million, that means the company plans $46 million worth of equipment upgrades, he said.
The 45-acre site currently is valued at $7 million for tax purposes, with a yearly property tax bill of $134,000.
Crews are moving fast with interior demolition work, Guidry said, adding that he has been on site many times to inspect plumbing and concrete work already, with more inspections yet to come.
“I just try to keep up with the job,” he said. “There’s a lot going on all over the place.”