Automatic palletizing helps an Anderson Erickson plant founded in 1930 stay efficient.

From home delivery to single-serve PET bottles of milk, Anderson Erickson Dairy, a Des Moines-based Midwest fixture serving markets in Iowa and four bordering states, has seen a world of change since its founding in 1930.

Yet the privately held dairy continues to adhere to an ideal centered in meeting consumers’ needs, according to Miriam Erickson Brown, president, chief executive officer and granddaughter of founder Iver Erickson. “The single biggest driver is that consumers all have their own idea of what packaging is most meaningful to them,” she tells Food & Beverage Packaging. “It’s our responsibility to provide them with a variety of different options.”

Those options range from products to flavors to packaging formats, the latter comprising plastic jugs and bottles and paperboard cartons. Plant production is split into two basic segments: fluid milk and cultured products such as sour cream, yogurt, and dips.

The fluid milk packaging crosses both plastic and paperboard, and splits further on the plastic side with both high-density polyethylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers.

A premier performer in its eight lines of fluid milk operations is an enclosed rotary Fogg Filler system with HEPA air filtration for 8- and 12-ounce single-serve containers that Norm Dostal, VP of operations, calls one of the best performers at the plant. “We get a high-quality product and good production out if it,” he says. Upstream the single-serve bottles are unscrambled using Pace equipment.

“We’ve seen growth in plastic bottles, but paper remains by far the most popular material for school venues,” observes Warren Erickson, chief operating officer.

Its gable-top paperboard carton operations are anchored by four Evergreen Packaging form-fill-seal machines, the newest of which was installed in January as a replacement for an older workhorse machine. The new machine operates at speeds to 150 pints per minute and 80 half-gallon paperboard cartons a minute.

The company mostly uses returnable plastic crates.

The cultured products side includes a six-lane filling system from Modern Packaging, operational since 2005, that’s used primarily for yogurt. It’s one of the plant’s better performers, says Dostal. A second, four-lane Modern Packaging system primarily fills cottage cheese into polypropylene containers.

The cultured products operations have two Delkor Spot-Pak machines. Those unitized multipacks are subsequently palletized by an automatic system featuring a Fanuc robot.

The operations are all part of Anderson Erickson’s adherence to “ridiculously high standards,” to quote the company’s marketing campaign. Those are standards it has held for a ridiculously long time that will continue be guided by consumer preferences.

-Rick Lingle, executive editor

Editor’s note: Our thanks to James Dudlicek, chief editor,
Dairy Foods, for his help with this story.

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