How Tony’s Pizza expansion will impact the Kansas economy

One of Salina’s biggest industries is growing. In addition to creating more jobs in central Kansas, this expansion will have a ripple effect throughout the Sunflower State.

The Schwan’s company buys flour from mills in Kansas, sausages from Tyson from Hutchinson, and packaging supplies from a supplier in the Kansas City, Kansas area.

By increasing the company’s footprint in Salina, they increase the goods they already buy from Kansas vendors. Salina’s, Tony’s and Red Barron’s out-of-plant pizzas are ranked second in the US frozen pizza market and number one for school pizzas.

New facility bringing over 200 jobs

Although Schwan’s is one of the most productive frozen pizza plants in the country, there is always room for growth. Since Schwan’s took over the facility in 1970, there have been over 80 additions.

In September 2020, the company broke ground on the 400,000 square foot expansion, roughly the length of three and a half football fields. The new facility, close to the old one, is on track to start producing pizza in the fall of 2022.

This multimillion-dollar investment includes state-of-the-art automated pizza production lines, shipping and receiving docks, and offices.

The company is already starting to hire for its more than 200 positions to be filled soon. The former factory already employs over 1,000 people in its 550,000 square foot production facility and distribution center.

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How do they make pizza?

Workers constructing the new Schwan's Company building on January 27, 2022 in Salina.  This 400,000 square foot facility will make Tony's and Red Baron pizzas starting in December.

“The pizza-making process we use is similar to the process followed in a home kitchen, but on a much larger scale,” said company spokesman Nick Carrow. “If you think about how traditional pizza is made, it’s not that different from a factory. It’s just a much bigger scale.”

The flour is combined with other ingredients to make the dough, which is allowed to rise before shaping it into a pie shape. These crusts are baked and then toppings are placed on them.

“The flour used in the mill is supplied by a local flour mill, which likely sources the wheat from Kansas farms,” ​​Carrow said.

The plant already has four 100,000-pound storage silos. The new facility will have two 150,000 lbs. To make more than half a billion pies a year, Schwan’s must acquire 38 million pounds of flour a year, using about 234 acres of wheat each day of production.

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What toppings go on each pizza?

All cheeses, meats and vegetables are sourced from the USA, crinkle meat from Hutchinson. Every day, the factory uses meat from 3,200 pigs and 480 head of cattle.

“Some of our meat comes from local areas, like Hutchinson,” said Christopher Wiseman, senior manufacturing manager at the Salina plant.

And don’t forget the cows, over 90 million pounds of cheese helps make the pizzas. Much of this cheese comes from neighboring Colorado. Plus, the pizzas go through many acres of tomatoes and soybeans.

Greening a pizza factory

Schwan’s designed the expansion with sustainability in mind. The company, a subsidiary of CJ CheilJedang Corporation, plans to reduce the plant’s wastewater production by 10,000 gallons per day and deliver natural gas yields of 18,000 standard cubic feet per year. Additionally, Schwan’s has partnered with Evergy to purchase renewable energy from Soldier Creek Wind Farm.

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What else does Schwan’s do?

Christopher Wiseman, senior manufacturing manager at the Schwan's Company plant, holds a Red Baron Pizza outside the new facility under construction in Salina

In addition to Kansas-made pizza, the company makes Asian-style foods Pagoda, Bibigo, and Edward and Mrs. Smith’s desserts. Its headquarters are in Minnesota, and in addition to Kansas, Schwan’s has factories in Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“This plant will begin production in December 2022,” Wiseman said.

The 77-acre Salina campus is beginning to hire workers and expects to begin training soon, bringing jobs and eventually families to the community

“They do a truckload of pizza an hour,” said Mitch Robinson, executive director of the Salina Community Economic Development Organization. “So they have a very high production. It’s good for our economy.”