Danedri Thompson
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Unilever is churning change in southwest Johnson County. The Country Crock spread manufacturer announced plans to expand its New Century factory this afternoon.
The $152 million expansion will add 100 new jobs locally.  The Dutch-based company is the world’s largest manufacturer of vegetable spreads employing more than 10,000 people in the U.S. and 173,000 globally.
Operating 24-hours-a-day, the company’s 168 local employees manufacture 1.3 million tubs of Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Brummel and Brown and Imperial brand vegetable spreads each day.
Gov. Sam Brownback was on hand to make the announcement.
“I think the world kind of comes together in Kansas,” the Governor told a large crowd.
The expansion will add 447,929 square-feet to the existing plant, increasing its footprint by 50 percent.
Kees Kraythoff, president of Unilever North America, said the investment is part of the company’s plan to double the size of its business while halving the size of its environmental footprint.
“By creating a world-class manufacturing facility we are further investing in our core food brands, and we’re excited about the growth this will enable,” Kraythoff said in a press release.
The new construction will utilize a total system approach that places an emphasis on environmentally sustainable processes. Unilever achieved zero waste to landfill in all of its 26 North American facilities and manufacturing plants in 2013, and executives hope to sustainably source 100 percent of its agricultural raw materials by 2020.
Raj Nakum, Unilever supply chain vice president, envisioned a future with a farm located next to a wind-energized factory.
“It starts with the farmer,” Nakum said. “Hopefully one day we’ll have a really nice community farm here.”
As part of the celebration, Unilever officials gave Gov. Brownback a challenge coin. Traditionally emblazoned with a meaningful emblem, the coins are often used by members of the military as motivational tools and to promote morale.
Mike Smith, supply leader at New Century Spreads, said the coin is also used by Unilever to recognize employee accomplishments. Unilever challenge coins read, “Churning Challenge.”