Guida’s Milk processing plant has grown steadily since Al Guida Jr. merged his milk dealership with J.E. Seibert’s facility in 1947. The site was initially developed in 1886 in a rural section of Connecticut. It has been expanded multiple times throughout the years, culminating in the development of a new high-rise cooler, pasteurizing and blending room, case handling and loading docks in 2000 through 2005.
The facility now sits squarely in the middle of the city of New Britain. In 2010, further growth prompted another wave of expansions, including a 22,000-square-foot warehouse, milk receiving bay and case handling facility scheduled for completion this May. This addition will permit the expansion of the existing packaging and material handling areas to accommodate future growth.
While the plant has been modernized, what hasn’t changed is Guida’s commitment to quality products and processing. The larger plant helps Guida’s service and acquire large-volume customers. The milk processor’s strategic plan (see related article on page 61) calls for it to be an efficient low-cost producer.
Every day, milk tankers filled with 6,000 gallons of raw milk pull into Guida’s receiving department on the street level of the three-story facility. The plant unloads from 20-27 trucks a day. Deliveries include raw milk, 100% juice products and orange juice concentrate.
There are two receiving lines and multiple CIP’s that permit the unloading and cleaning of multiple trailers concurrently. Raw product is directed through a new receiving panel (installed in 2011) to any one of the six storage silos ranging in capacity from 40,000-50,000 gallons.
Raw milk samples are sent by pneumatic tube from the receiving department to the third-floor lab. The lab screens the raw materials and tests for antibiotics, DMC (direct microscopic counts), added water, odor and chemistries, and puts the milk through various stress tests and microbiological analyses, says product quality manager Hugh O’Hare.
Separation and pasteurization
Guida’s uses cold bowl separation to separate the raw skim from the cream. A 5,000-gallon-per-hour separator is located in the receiving department and feeds skim to a dedicated 40,000-gallon silo. Raw cream is directed to one of three holding vessels for storage. The system pre-cools the cream exiting the separator to 34°F to minimize the need for downstream cooling and agitation.Though not unique to Guida’s, cold separation is not common. The process leaves a little butterfat in the product. While some might consider this to be an inefficient process because it does not capture every last drop of cream, cold separation is a Guida’s signature.
Director of plant operations Wesley Sliwinski says the cold process is gentler on the milk and improves the flavor and texture.
Guida’s facility is unique in its ability to manage and segregate multiple streams of raw products to meet customer demands for conventional and organic products. A specialty line of Connecticut-grown products is processed on site from specially selected farms to meet the growing demand of the local products movement.
Product standardizing and blending
Guida’s uses four HTST (high-temperature, short-time) pasteurization systems with a capacity of 20,000 gallons an hour. These systems are equipped with a computerized ratio standardizing system for accurate blending of raw milk and skim at the balance tank that permits accurate custom blending to the target at the touch of a button.
Blending of creams, flavored milks and ice cream mixes are done using a Wonderware-based computerized control platform with a touch-screen interface that allows the operator to select any recipe from a list and instantly generate a formula based on the incoming test of the skim, milk and cream. The system also permits the operator to monitor the function of the pumps, valves and pasteurizer components in real time. Access to formulas and restricted functions is password protected.
Process and CIP systems communicate through an interlock portal that restricts access to the cleaning system programs when a vessel or line are in process mode. The plant’s standard operating procedure requires that all CIP process charts are compared to a master file on an overlay transparency to ensure that the flow, temperature, pressure and chemical concentrations are within the permitted tolerances.
Mixproof valves installed on the pasteurizer discharge lines maintain separation between the various product types from skim milk to chocolate ice cream mix. Nine pasteurized storage vessels equipped with HEPA air filtration on the vent line further protect the integrity of the product post pasteurization.
An array of 86 3-inch valves in the pasteurization room allows for the flexibility to feed any packaging line from any pasteurized storage tank and permits multiple fillers to feed off a single source tank. The system’s design allows for products to be gravity-fed or pump-assisted to the fillers. Each pump is equipped with a pressure-monitoring system that varies the speed to meet a pre-set pressure setting, ensuring that the fillers are properly fed. This minimizes foam and shearing. The system also stops the pump when downstream demand ceases.
Filling and labeling
The facility has 10 packaging lines, consisting of three plastic bottle fillers that handle bottles from 10-ounce to gallon capacity; two paper half-gallon lines; two eco-pak fillers that handle 4- to 10-ounce cartons; a quart/pint/half-pint standard cross-section carton filler; a bag filler and a tote filling line. Several of these lines are equipped with HEPA filtration and auto-sanitizing features and one has extend-shelf-life capabilities, including a 250°F self-sterilization cycle. A tamper-evident foil seal liner to help preserve freshness is applied to Guida-label milk items in plastic bottles.
Each filler bowl is equipped with a temperature-monitoring system to accurately track temperatures during product processing and sanitation-related activities.
The plant produces products in many formats. These include:
• Standard 16-quart milk cases
• Nine one-half-gallon pack open corrugated boxes
• 45- or 54-case bundles on a pallet
• Flat-loaded bundles of 54 cases
• 80-count stainless (Bossy) carts
• 48-box-per-pallet corrugated gallons
• 80-box-per-pallet corrugated half-gallons
• 108-count tray pack pints per pallet and
• Bulk format in trailers (capacity up to 6,000 gallons)
Guida’s ships pasteurized cream, mix and milk products in bulk format to customers throughout the Northeast on its fleet of dedicated tankers. (President Mike Guida jokes that the company’s containers range in size from 4 ounces to 6,000 gallons.) The corrugated product offerings are fed to a robotic palletizing and wrapping system for direct loading onto trailers. The corrugated line opens up the distribution range for product to customers throughout the country.
Frozen juice concentrate arrives in 4,200-gallon bulk tankers and is kept in a 25°F holding room to minimize the need for agitation during storage. A separate processing room contains blending and pasteurized storage tanks dedicated to juice products. Due to the fact that the majority of Guida’s juice products are sold in plastic bottles, the plant developed a specialized process system to homogenize juice products and prevent the separation of juice solids, which can lead to visually unappealing products on the grocer’s shelf (and lost sales).
Guida’s, with its company-owned fleet of vehicles, does direct store deliveries serving convenience stores, schools, supermarkets, foodservice and institutions. The company has more than 100 power units and more than 150 trailers to meet the distribution needs of all types of customers. It owns its own trucks, performs the maintenance on them and buys fuel to keep distribution costs in check.
“Our No. 1 asset within the distribution department is our people,” says David Drezek, director of customer service and distribution. “They are not just ‘milk men’ but well-trained customer service representatives. Our customers set their clocks daily when the ‘Guida guy’ arrives at their location.”
AT a glance
Total processing capacity: 1 million gallons a week (fluid milk, creams, flavored milks, 100% juices, drinks, ice cream mix and bottled water)
Pasteurization type/units/capacity: Four HTST (high-temperature, short-time) pasteurizers
Silos: Six, consisting of 40,000- and 50,000-gallon capacities
Filling lines: 10, consisting of three plastic bottle fillers (16 ounce, quart, half-gallon and gallon capacity), two paperboard half-gallon fillers, two eco-pak cartons fillers (4, 8 and 10 ounce), one standard cross-section filler (quarts, pints and half-pints), one bag filler (2.5-, 3- and 5-gallon bags) and one tote filler (320-gallon bags using reusable or disposable totes)
Storage capacity (raw, pasteurized, cooler): 270,000 gallons
Refrigerated warehouse: 40,000 square feet. Temperature is maintained at 35-38°F and monitored by computer software that notifies plant personnel by fax, phone or e-mail of an alarm condition.