Lisa McTigue Pierce, Executive Editor

March 11, 2015

7 Min Read
Old-world taste; new-world convenience




Goya video screen

Watch a video of Goya Foods' Secaucus, NJ, plant at Packaging Digest's YouTube Video page by clicking here.








For 75 years, Goya Foods has served its core Hispanic customers a continuing feast of foods steeped in ethnic flavors that convey a "taste of home." Its Latin cuisine has found a place-setting on tables of non-Hispanics, too, enticed by alluring photos of authentic ingredients and robust seasonings shown on many of its packages.

Today, the company is the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the U.S. and the established leader of Latin Fusion foods and beverages with more than 1,600 products on its menu. Its flavor palette draws on time-honored recipes from a range of areas: the Caribbean, Mexico, Spain, and Central and South America.

Goya has expanded over the decades and now operates 15 plants throughout the U.S., the Caribbean and Europe (including Spain—birthplace of company founders Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife, Carolina). Still privately owned and managed by the Unanue family, Goya now combines the best of old and new worlds; traditional dishes with modern conveniences. One example is the company's easy-to-prepare seasoned rice kits—which combine rice, seasonings and vegetables in a single pouch—for stove-top or microwave cooking.

The kits are one of many dry products produced at the company's Secaucus, NJ, facility. The 99,000-sq-ft plant packages all of the company's rice and flour, and most of the beans, which are sold worldwide. Handling more than 140 SKUs, this location processes about 20,000 cases/day during peak production. 

Of 12 packaging lines, six package beans in bags, three put flour in pouches and three fill rice in pouches, which are then placed into cartons. During an early June visit, Packaging Digest toured much of the plant, but for this article, we'll concentrate on representative Bean Line No. 1, Rice Line No. 1 and the combined automated palletizing/unitizing operations.

Lines stay current
Goya continues to upgrade the plant's established packaging setups for better efficiency and improved food safety processes. For example, one of the bean lines was down the day of the visit so system electronics could be updated.

Additional recent improvements include automated palletizing; x-ray inspection for metallized pouches of rice; and new Allen-Bradley control panels from Rockwell Automation throughout the plant with bilingual (English/Spanish) capability. Language selection is as easy as touching a flag icon on the HMI displays.

Some operational gains are related to material rather than equipment. On the bean lines, a switch to PP instead of PE film makes a better looking package on the shelf and seals easier on existing equipment. Company vp Joe Perez says, "PP also allows us to increase packing speeds by about 12 percent."

Ingredients arrive in "super sacks," a.k.a. flexible bulk containers. All products go through cleaning and screening to remove any foreign materials. From there, beans (for example) are vacuum conveyed into a hopper, which feeds elevating buckets that deliver the product to packaging lines on the other side of the wall.

For Bean Line No. 1, beans are fed to two Hayssen Ultima ST vertical form/fill/seal machines. Each system operates at about 70 bags/min on the 1-lb bag size to hit the 140 bags/min target output. For product safety and quality control, a Safeline metal detector is positioned between the weigh cup and the vf/f/s.

Filled and sealed packages from each bagger drop onto a belt conveyor, which merges the two lines into single file simply by adjusting the speeds of the side-by-side conveyors and releasing one bag at a time. A single stream of bags then passes under the printhead of a Linx 4900 inkjet printer (distributed by Diagraph Corp.) where a production code is added.

On their way to case packing, bags enter a vibration table where sensors check for dropped beans, which means a bag has broken open. If so, the bag is ejected so it doesn't get case-packed. Dropped beans are fed back into the hopper.

At this point, the line makes a 90-deg turn so bags can be collated and packed into cases. Cases are erected and bottom sealed with p-s tape on a system from Wexxar.

Cases hold 24 bags, four rows of six. Within the Blueprint Automation gravity case packer, a vibrator helps settle the bags and shuttles back and forth to create the pack pattern as bags drop into the top of the case.

Cases are top-sealed with p-s tape by a Little David unit from Loveshaw, receive alpha numerics and a bar code from a Domino inkjet coder and then ascend to an elevated conveyor to reach the palletizing station, which is about 250 feet away.

Three top-level Von Gal palletizers handle the production of all 12 lines, with each palletizer dedicated to four packaging lines. The conveyor system from Simplimatic Automation was designed so cases could be diverted to a different palletizer with a simple push of a button. That action raises or lowers a section of a conveyor so cases drop down to a different exit conveyor, feeding cases to an alternate palletizer (a gate holds cases until the section is in place and cases are ready to move again). This gives the plant flexibility in downstream operations to keep production moving, but the stacked conveyor layout also saves space in the crowded plant. 

One operator handles the flow of cases from all 12 lines into the three palletizers, moves filled pallets to the Lantech Q300XT stretch wrapper and then loads them onto trucks.

Goya tries to schedule production with minimal changeovers, running the same product and, if possible, the same package size a full day or more. It has devised a simple system to communicate with the control system at the palletizer station. As cases leave the main packaging area, Goya adds a strip of reflective tape to the last case of the run. When seen by a downstream photoelectric sensor, it triggers the line control system for a SKU changeover at the palletizers. At the end of the day, this same system prompts a shutdown of the line.

Rice kit packaging
One of Goya's most popular products is the convenient-to-prepare seasoned rice line, with 14 varieties to choose from. Rice, seasonings and dehydrated vegetables (when part of the recipe) are packed together in one bottom-gusseted pouch. The metallized structure provides enough moisture barrier to deliver a three-year shelf life.

On Rice Line No. 1, a KHS Klöckner-Bartelt CN110 horizontal form/fill/seal machine uses a volumetric filler for the free-flowing rice, an auger for the less-movable spice and a slide gate for the vegetables (the actual filling order is veggies, rice, seasonings). As pouches reach the end of the f/f/s system, a picker uses vacuum cups to transfer the vertical pouches to a horizontal position on a conveyor, creating a right turn in the line. At this point, pouches are automatically checkweighed on a Mettler Toledo unit. For quality control, Goya also periodically verifies weights offline.

From there, pouches make another right turn for a short distance before turning left into the cartoning operation. This hitch in the line orients the pouches for carton insertion and creates room on both sides to operate and service the cartoning equipment.

Pouches are staged in pockets prior to carton insertion. Here a Klöckner-Bartelt pouch flattening system uses a rotary pad to tamp down the pouch so it loads easier into the carton. The gusset on the bottom of the pouch helps with carton loading, too, by presenting a wide, flat surface for the pusher bar on the Schneider Packaging Equipment Co. horizontal cartoner.

After hot-melt sealing, cartons turn right to pass through a Safeline x-ray system, which checks the metallized pouches for foreign contaminants. An air reject system removes any suspect packages. The x-ray system is tested once an hour to make sure it's working (workers simply put a contaminated box through and verify that it has been rejected).

Cartons are collated and packed into regular slotted cases (RSC) on a Schneider case erector/packer/sealer before continuing on to their designated palletizer.

On track for quality
Staying on top of quality procedures, Goya is ramping up to comply with new rules in the Food Safety Modernization Act. QC supervisor Carolina Rivera says they are ready to track packaging materials. They'll use the same procedures already in place for tracking raw products, but this new safety requirement will double their paperwork.


BluePrint Automation, 804-520-5400.

Diagraph Corp. (Linx), 636-300-2000.
Domino North America, 847-244-2501.
HayssenSandiacre, A Barry-Wehmiller Co., 864-486-4000.
KHS USA (Klöckner-Bartelt), 941-359-4000.
Lantech, 800-866-0322.
Loveshaw, 800-572-3434.
Mettler Toledo, 800-836-0836.
Rockwell Automation, 414-382-2000.
Safeline, 813-889-9500.
Schneider Packaging Equipment Co., 315-676-3035.
Simplimatic Automation, 800-294-2003.
Von Gal, 800-542-6570.
Wexxar Packaging Inc., 604-930-9300.


About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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