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Buffalo-based Rich Products Corp. has completed a $10 million expansion of its Niagara Street plant that adds shelf-stable beverages to its foods portfolio.

Installation of so-called "High Tech/High Temp" line, which began limited operations in January 2000, enables the local company to produce an array of aseptic beverage products that do not require refrigeration.

"The future of Rich's Buffalo plant is high tech/high temp," said Terry Tierney, plant manager.

"As we continue to aggressively grow around the world, we are seeing a great opportunity to manufacture and sell products that are shelf stable."

As The Buffalo News reported in October 1999, Rich Products had embarked on a multimillion-dollar capital project to enhance the viability of its Buffalo manufacturing operations into the 21st Century.

The now-completed project involved a physical expansion of the 1145 Niagara St. plant, plus the installation of several tanks, the largest of which stands 23 feet tall, and some 5,000 linear feet of stainless steel pipe. The line is set up to pack liquid products in 32 oz., 46 oz., 64 oz. and two-liter rectangular boxes.

In addition to adding a new product line for the family-owned food company, the aseptic line has added 15 new jobs to the Rich Products roster.

The new line is currently producing ready-to-drink and ready-to-mix fruit smoothies for food service applications, according to Don Gibson, senior marketing director.

"We use real fruit in the recipes, to add extra taste and value to the product," Gibson said. "We're still very early on in development of beverage products, but see so much potential."

At this time Rich's has one key wholesale client for its Rich Smoothies, a line that includes strawberry, banana and wild berry flavors. The company has no current plans to offer the drinks and concentrates at the retail level.

Founded in 1945, Rich Products is one of the world's largest family-owned food companies, with annual revenues of more than $1.6 billion on sales of some 2,300 products in 70 countries. The company employs more 7,000 worldwide, including 287 plant workers and 1,400 headquarters staffers here.

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