The potato chip manufacturer Pringles is investing 30 million euros in its Mechelen factory. It exports to all of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. “We’re on our gums.”
300 meters, Peter Van Puyvelde and his colleagues need to make a packed Pringles chip from potato flakes. The operations manager of the Pringles factory in Mechelen shows how this works. “Here, at the beginning of the factory, trucks deliver oil and potato, corn, wheat and rice flakes,” he says. ‘We make crispy dough from those flakes.’
We burn the gases that are released above our fryer. Otherwise, the whole of Mechelen and the surrounding area would constantly smell of chips.
This is done in the factory, which has a permanent smell of croquettes. A long, thin piece of crispy dough – it looks like a never-ending chamois leather – rolls over to the slicers, which cut out oval shapes. ‘They go in here,’ says Van Puyvelde at a 30-meter-long industrial frying kettle. ‘It takes less than 10 seconds to bake a chip.’
Changes are in the pipeline here. ‘We are going to replace a boiler in the coming year,’ says Van Puyvelde. ‘We are also renewing our air combustion installation and making it more efficient. It heats the frying oil with the gases and the warm air that are created above the oil. And it guarantees that the whole of Mechelen and the surrounding area does not constantly smell like chips. ‘
In total, Kellogg Company, the American cornflakes producer that took over Pringles from its competitor Procter & Gamble in 2012, pumps more than 30 million euros into its Mechelen factory. ‘After the renovation, we will save 20 to 30 percent energy,’ says Van Puyvelde. ‘That makes our factory more sustainable, costs fall and with the new installations we can produce 10 percent more.’
The latter is certainly crucial, because Van Puyvelde and his 650 colleagues are on their gums. ‘Every day we make 2 million canisters of Pringles, good for 104,000 tons of chips per year. The factory runs at full capacity day and night, every day of the week. Even on holidays. We only stop our lines for maintenance or to adjust the recipe. ‘
Pringles must therefore be creative, because there is not much room to expand. The factory is adjacent to a railway line, houses and a Procter & Gamble factory. “By making our lines more reliable and our planning more efficient, we have already been able to increase our production capacity by 20 percent over the past five years.”
Van Puyvelde is not concerned that the expansion options in Mechelen are limited. “With his investment, Kellogg shows that the factory’s future is on the right track.” Kellogg has also been producing Pringles in Kutno, Poland since 2014, where it commissioned a fourth production line this year, an investment of 110 million euros.
The 25-year-old Pringles facility in Mechelen is one of the major chip factories in Belgium. PepsiCo makes Lay’s chips in Veurne. In Mouscron, Roger & Roger makes chips from Croky, among others.
The Mechelen factory is an important link in the Pringles production chain. “Pringles is for sale in 140 countries and we export to more than 40 countries in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East,” says Van Puyvelde. “There are seven Pringles factories around the world, three of which are large. Mechelen is one of them. ‘