Blue Rock Builds Specialized Kitchen for Freshpet

Freshpet manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, PA.
Freshpet manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, PA.

Freshpet Inc. utilized the design-build expertise of Blue Rock Construction to transform a 58,000-square-foot dairy into a state-of-the-art refrigerated pet food manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, PA.

This is where Freshpet kitchens produce the country’s first and only fresh, all-natural food for pets.

Freshpet manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, PA.

The facility was built to meet human-grade manufacturing standards since the location produces all Freshpet food recipes. The plant, located in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park IV, is Freshpet’s only manufacturing facility that distributes its product to over 15,000 stores nationwide.

FreshpetVideoFrame“Blue Rock designed the Freshpet facility like none other,” said Michael Hieger, Senior Vice President of manufacturing for Freshpet. “The refrigerated pet food industry is in its infancy, so there was not a boilerplate set of blueprints to follow. The factory was designed to higher standards than most human food facilities and is truly a custom-designed and engineered facility.”

“This is a specialized building designed and constructed to house a very distinctive process,” said Blue Rock Executive Vice President Tom Meagher. “This is a manufacturing facility with many unique processes and environmental requirements that changed as equipment elements of the process were defined. Blue Rock was designing the building as Freshpet designed their process. The challenge was to be flexible and make changes in direction in real time.”

Fresh Pet mechanical (1)While partnering with Margulies Hoelzi Architecture, Blue Rock completed the first phase of the project in 2013 by delivering a 65,000-square-foot cold storage and manufacturing facility. The building features freezers, coolers, office space, cafeteria and locker rooms. The first phase was a total modification of the existing structure that included office renovations and the addition of a second-floor mezzanine.

For the manufacturing area, Blue Rock’s initial intent was to reuse most of the existing infrastructure, but quickly realized it would be more cost effective to create new spaces within the existing building envelope. Floors were demolished, steel was reinforced and Blue Rock constructed clean manufacturing spaces for production lines. The construction timeline was extremely compressed as the building was purchased, renovated and producing product in less than a year.

“The timeline could not have been achieved without Blue Rock scrutinizing details every step of the way,” said Hieger. “Blue Rock did a great job of managing and coordinating various contractors to ensure all work was being completed in a timely manner.”

Expansion projects
Two years after Freshpet opened its new facility, Blue Rock started design of a 40,000-square-foot expansion. The first phase of the expansion was completed in July 2015 with focus on repositioning the inbound docks to optimize the flow of fresh ingredients through the Freshpet Kitchens.

The second phase expanded the production area of the plant to include two additional state-of-the-art production lines custom built to prepare Freshpet’s proprietary recipes.

Freshpet’s number one priority is pet safety. To ensure this, the expansion also included an advanced quality assurance lab where microbiology testing for food safety and quality assurance is conducted. This new facility will be registered with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and earned a Safe Quality Food Level 3 Certification, the highest honor of its kind.

“Freshpet highly recommends Blue Rock and looks forward to working with them in the near future,” said Hieger.


Blue Rock Delivers Upscale Cold Storage Facilities

Penske Logistics Center cold storage facility
Penske Logistics cold storage and warehouse facility in Logan Township, NJ

Penske Logistics provides logistics services to leading companies around the world. When Penske required a new cold storage facility on a tight schedule, they turned to the expertise of Blue Rock Construction.

Operating on an aggressive 10-week work schedule, Blue Rock delivered a 125,000-square-foot cold storage facility in Logan Township, NJ, to meet Penske’s needs.

Penske Logistics cold storage facilityPenske Logistics cold storage facility“Ten weeks to develop a 125,000-square-foot facility is pretty quick,” said Kevin Kelly, Blue Rock’s Senior Project Manager. “By working 12-hour shifts and Saturdays, Blue Rock delivered this project on schedule despite encountering some delay issues.”

As part of the LogistiCenter at Logan, this $1.8M design-build project includes an 86,300-square-foot warehouse, a 30,000-square-foot cold storage area, and an 8,500-square-foot office space dedicated to a front office with a shipping office in the back.

Within the warehouse, Blue Rock installed HVAC systems to include both cooling and heating, which is somewhat unusual for such a large warehouse.

“You don’t typically heat and cool large expansive warehouses, but they needed a cooling element in there,” said Kelly. “It’s an ambient temperature. Typically, they’re just freeze-protection warehouses where you’re not addressing any kind of hot temperatures in the summer. But they need to keep it temperature controlled in the summer and winter.”

Along with the HVAC systems, other features Blue Rock delivered include:

  • Upgrading 23 loading docks, including two cooling-system docks
  • Constructing an audiovisual conference room
  • Installing a rear mechanical pad to house new cold storage
  • Installing condensate drain lines for a refrigeration system
  • Modification to existing ESFR fire suppression system to include dry pendent heads and wet systems for office fit-outs
  • Obtaining permits and approvals required by various Logan Township agencies

Constant communication and real-time collaboration between Blue Rock and Penske Logistics, along with Clarion Construction of Walnut, CA, which handles cold storage and refrigeration items for Penske, was key to fast-tracking the project.

“It was a little unique, but everyone knows they have to be on the same team,” said Kelly. “The schedule was aggressive and we all held to it.”

This was Blue Rock’s first project with Penske Logistics, but certainly not its first premium cold storage facility. Other examples range from regional distributors to national supply chains, such as (click company name for more detailed info):

  • Trader Joe's cold storage facility
    Trader Joe’s processing and packaging facility in Nazareth, PA.

    Trader Joe’s: 132,000-square-foot facility with various unique cold storage environments

  • Freshpet: $5.3M, 65,000-square-foot renovation for refrigerated food and treats for dogs and cats
  • FoodSource: $2.1M, 55,000-square-foot facility with 36,950 square feet for cold storage, cold docks and repackaging areas
  • Genji: Converted an existing 4,600-square-foot warehouse into a freezer and cooler facility
  • Gretz Beer Company: $4.9M, 320,000-square-foot cold storage with a 172,600-square-foot temperature controlled warehouse and a 14,250-square-foot keg cooler.
  • Alacer Corp: $6.6M, 130,000-square-foot facility with temperature controlled areas
  • Central Admixture Pharmacy Services, Inc. (CAPS): Strict temperature requirements for a 30,000-square-foot warehouse and cold storage facility.

Penske Logistics Company Overview

Penske Logistics is a subsidiary of Penske Truck Leasing. It has operations in North America, South America, Europe and Asia; and employs over 9,000 employees. Penske Logistics specializes in inbound supply chain management, cross-docking, sequencing, dedicated contract carriage, distribution center management, transportation management, lead logistics and just-in-time support.

LogistiCenter at Logan Overview

Operated by Dermody Properties, LogistiCenter at Logan is a 1,100-acre, master-planned Class A business park planned for over 5.5 million square feet of warehouse, distribution, and manufacturing space. Located halfway between New York City and Washington, D.C., in the heart of the Northeast Transportation Corridor, LogistiCenter at Logan provides exceptional access to the U.S. Interstate system. This strategic location puts 40% of the total U.S. population and one of the world’s largest consumer markets within a one-day drive.