Blue Diamond Growers broke ground Tuesday on an expansion of its west Turlock plant to meet the demand for almond milk.
The addition will add 25 to 28 jobs to the 150 already at the Washington Road plant, said Travis Hill, start-up manager for the Sacramento-based cooperative.
The 52,000-square-foot annex also will employ a yet-to-be-determined number of people making a new product that is still under wraps, said Mark Jansen, president and chief executive officer.
“It’s about generating growth for Blue Diamond, for our growers and the communities that we live in,” he said.
The plant opened in 2013 with about 200,000 square feet of space for further processing of plain almonds received at Blue Diamond plants in Salida and Sacramento. The Turlock plant slices, dices and blanches nuts and makes almond flour, popular with people avoiding gluten.
The expansion, scheduled for completion in April 2020, will make the butter-like base for the Almond Breeze milk. Water is added at other locations around the world to reduce shipping costs.
Blue Diamond will continue to make almond milk base in Sacramento, where it also produces its wide array of flavored snack nuts and gluten-free crackers.
The 108-year-old company is the largest player in a California almond industry that accounts for about 80 percent of global volume. It employs a total of about 1,500 people in Sacramento, Salida and Turlock.
The expansion announced Tuesday is part of a three-phase plan that ultimately will bring the Turlock plant to about 500,000 square feet. The timeline and products to be added have not been revealed.
Blue Diamond also is not disclosing the cost of the expansion. The building will be erected by the Austin Co., based in Cleveland. Foth, a company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, will install the manufacturing equipment.
The ground-breaking ceremony featured Turlock officials and other guests. Mayor Amy Bublak noted that the original building won the Plant of the Year Award from Food Engineering magazine for its food-safety measures and other features.
“We truly are growing our reputation as the Silicon Valley of food production,” she said.
Blue Diamond used the occasion to present a $20,000 donation to the California FFA Foundation. It was accepted by the Turlock High School chapter of the agriculture education group.