Quality is focus at Trouw's Neosho plant

The Neosho plant is the 2019 American Feed Industry Assn./Feedstuffs Feed Facility of the Year award winner in the premix category.

Sarah Muirhead, Editor, Feedstuffs

January 23, 2020

6 Min Read
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As a nutrition-focused company, Trouw Nutrition’s Neosho, Mo., mill strives to provide the safest, highest-quality blends and ingredients to the pet food industry, giving pets a healthier, happier life.  

The Neosho plant is the 2019 American Feed Industry Assn./Feedstuffs Feed Facility of the Year award winner in the premix category. The facility was the 2016 Feed Facility of the Year overall and premix category winner. The recognition was made during AFIA’s Feed Education Program held at the 2020 International Production & Processing Expo in Atlanta, Ga.

A commitment to continuous improvement and excellence in the manufacturing process is a key operational philosophy at the Neosho premix plant. Trouw holds a total of six quality certifications, including AFIA’s Safe Feed/Safe Food Certification Program, Safe Quality Food Level 2 Food Sector Category 32 (manufacture of pet food) and Category 34 (manufacture of animal feed), FAMI-QS, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), restricted-use protein products (RUPP) free, and Ractopamine Free.

A top priority has long been listening to customers and doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their product and manufacturing objectives, according to plant manager Doug Vanjoff.

According to Vanjoff, the design of the Neosho facility allows for a wide range of manufacturing options to meet unique customer requirements, ranging from the handling of specialty raw materials to adhering to a wide variety of packaging requirements. Vanjoff credits, among other things, the facility's computer-controlled systems for in-process analysis, quality control and strict on-site quality assurance programs designed to satisfy the highest industry standards.

Owned by BASF before being acquired in 2007, the Neosho facility has received more than $7 million in upgrades since then. Trouw Nutrition USA is an operating unit of Nutreco, a global animal nutrition company based in the Netherlands. In March 2001, Nutreco purchased Ducoa and formed the U.S. business unit known as Trouw Nutrition USA. Building upon more than 100 years of history, Nutreco employs approximately 12,000 people in 37 countries, with sales in 90 countries. The company overall operates some 120 plants.

“Our team focuses 100% on animal well-being and safety. We pride ourselves on taking the necessary steps to confirm ingredients and finished products meet or exceed our customers’ standards,” said Vanjoff. He added that extensive internal quality control procedures are in place so every premix is evaluated and touched by the facility’s staff an average of 101 times before heading to a customer.

“Combined with our commitment to procuring only the finest ingredients, we are fully committed to protecting our customers’ brands and ensuring pets receive the safest, highest-quality food,” Vanjoff said.

New to the facility in 2019 is a stand-alone, one-ton stainless steel mixer and packaging line. Installation and validation were completed in April 2019 at an investment of $300,000.

“In response to consumer demand, the North American pet food industry is providing numerous unique, niche pet foods that utilize a variety of specialty ingredients, such as ancient grains, fruits, vegetables and various functional ingredients. Pet food manufacturers are unable to carry all the various ingredients required and have relied on custom preblends to meet the ingredient requirements. The variety of product offerings has greatly impacted plant efficiencies, since manufacturers now have shorter production runs and more changeovers to make these unique products,” said Vanjoff.

Trouw Nutrition USA has found business success by catering to this growing trend through its current capability to blend small volumes of custom premix. The Neosho mill is an important premixing facility for Trouw. It has warehousing space and a stellar reputation for delivering quality. Additionally, a significant amount of pet food manufacturing is done within 150 miles of Neosho, providing a strategic logistical advantage.

The Neosho mill has a universal worker program that requires employees to spend a minimum of 2.5 calendar months of training in each of the five production areas. To move from one area to the next, employees must demonstrate their competency through written tests upon which they must score a 90% or higher mark.

A new employee orientation program, contractor training program, regular reviews of standard operating procedures, monthly food safety training and monthly supervisor/employee coaching sessions to discuss goals and issues are also regular operating protocol. Likewise, safety discussions are part of each shift and include a review of the previous day's documented observations.

On a monthly basis, each shift and/or department has its own safety meetings, the notes from which are then sent to the safety committee to review, discuss and evaluate each new action item for opportunities for improvement. Safety training schedules are established each year based on current requirements. Each topic is reviewed with all affected employees with documented signing sheets.

The Neosho facility follows an internal quality program for safeguarding products and services. The program uses a single, consistent quality approach, thereby creating value for customers, its food chain partners and Nutreco.

The five pillars operated under are: certified quality and food safety, ingredient assessment and management, monitoring and control, risk management and tracking and tracing. The Neosho facility has a written housekeeping program that covers the entire site. Each job position has a specific list with assigned tasks that must be completed on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

Each ingredient and finished premix is tested with near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy, providing rapid, non-destructive elemental analysis on premixes and ingredients. Using discriminant analysis, a qualitative statistical technique, the NIR spectra results of a single sample can be compared to that of the comprehensive collection of historical data in Trouw Nutrition’s extensive proprietary database. Through this comparison, lab technicians can discern if and where the sample deviates from the accepted “norm” established by the historical data.

Each month, the Food Safety/Food Defense team performs a walkthrough to identify areas that may need extra attention. An action list is then created to track and follow each item through to completion.

Additionally, a dedicated sanitation employee maintains and cleans the facility, and the tasks are documented in the company's maintenance management software.

All employees enter the facility through a designated area and are required to change into company-issued uniforms prior to entry. Storage racks contain outlines of specific tools to ensure that all items are accounted for throughout the day. Likewise, color coding of various facility tools provides employees with a quick reference to determine which items can be in contact with each specific product.

The Neosho facility has gone more than 10 years without a lost time accident.

“I believe we are outstanding because of the people we have doing their jobs day in and day out. What we do is critical not only for us but for our customers. We need to protect the integrity of the customers’ brand by ensuring that our quality programs are the most innovative and state-of-the-art,” Vanjoff said.

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