American Almond celebrates move to new facility

Press Release

American Almond celebrates move to new facility

Press Release
Magdalini Fliska moved. Luckily it wasn’t away from our Barry Callebaut family. Better still, it wasn’t away from her role as a Process Engineer with American Almond either. It wasn’t even to a new home for her family. And perhaps best of all, she didn’t make her move alone - the successful move was all about a joint team effort.

The American Almond relocation took place recently when Ms. Fliska’s role - and those of her colleagues - moved to a new state-of-the-art facility in Pennsauken, New Jersey, USA, just down the road from her home in Philadelphia.

A native of Kavala, Greece, Ms. Fliska has been on the team for six years, serving as Corporate Project and Process Engineer in the Gourmet & Specialties Division of Barry Callebaut. In a role that has been historically dominated by men, Barry Callebaut’s Management Team is proud of Ms. Fliska’s position as a leading engineer working on an important brand like American Almond. Never one to be afraid of a challenge, she was the perfect person to lead American Almond’s move.

American Almond - Barry Callebaut

Ms. Fliska is excited about American Almond’s move from Brooklyn to Pennsauken both personally and professionally. Notably, her commute of 90 minutes to the Brooklyn facility has been cut down by more than half and her new facility is truly amazing.

The Move Is Announced

“Once we announced the acquisition of American Almond and decided that we were going to be moving the whole operation I was instantly excited,” she said of her role with the move. “Leading the project to move the whole American Almond activities to a new place was like joining an adventure involving many different activities - I just had to take such a great opportunity!”

Fliska and her fellow American Almond team members, together with the support from Barry Callebaut’s Region Americas team, looked at the need for a new facility from a lot of different angles. After calling Brooklyn, New York home for the better part of a century, it was clear that change was needed. While seemingly a daunting task, American Almond was lucky to have a stable team in place the moment the move was planned:

“When I started working at American Almond back in 1984, we were celebrating the retirement of a woman who started working for the company right after school. She was retiring at the age of 65, with 50 years of service. I was very impressed by that,” said Patrick Holsgrove, Director of Product & Process Engineering at American Almond. “As time went by, people would only leave as they reached retirement age. So it was not unusual to have people working 20, 30, or even 40 years for the company." 

Leading the process - from bringing new facility up and running to shutting the old one down

Ms. Fliska goes on to note that she, as head engineer, was involved from the early stages of the move discussions – from selecting and sizing out new equipment to match the quality our customers expect to managing the building layout and design, construction and building upgrades:

“This move is very exciting for the business and I’m looking forward to our team learning even more about the processes and possibilities associated with our new Pennsauken home,” Ms. Fliska said of the move. “Learning and mastering is what our industry is all about and our new home provides for both.”

American Almond - Barry Callebaut

“It is the first time we experienced a move. My days on this project were interesting, exciting and also challenging. I always like a good challenge,” she shared. “We have had acquisitions before but never had to move the whole operation to another facility.”

The American Almond team also had to get the machinery in Pennsauken fully operational before fully shutting down machines marked for the move to make sure that they operate correctly. That same Brooklyn equipment needed to be disconnected, moved, re-connected and started up again in the new facility in a very short time - about 2-3 weeks.

Luckily, Magdalini wasn’t alone in the transition. When Barry Callebaut acquired American Almond, they were not only adding an amazing lineup of products, but also a great team to their roster. One of those individuals, Nestor Morales, helped coordinate the move from the Brooklyn side of the project:

“The American Almond transition has been an adventure from Brooklyn to Pennsauken,” Morales said of the move. "I am proud and honored to produce the quality products that have given us our reputation and recognition over the last 90 years. I’m looking forward to growing this legacy for many more years to come.” 

Preserving the strengths to date, while creating new possibilities for future growth

The new Pennsauken facility is a completely-refurbished building and includes equipment and processes that are new to the Barry Callebaut family. Hand in hand with the move to New Jersey goes various improvements on existing processes. For example, an important step for American Almond’s products is the blanching of almonds and apricot kernels. New equipment – featuring enhanced technological advancements – was purchased with this specifically in mind.

“There is a lot of potential for growth, not only in the existing product portfolio that American Almond has but also in new products,” Ms. Fliska said of their product lineup and what it might look like in the future. “American Almond is processing nuts only at this point but I believe that there is potential to mix those nuts with chocolate and make another category of great products. Chocolate and nuts in various forms is a great combination and something that we know our customers are interested in.

”The primary products that are produced in Pennsauken are almond, macaroon, and kernel paste, after they are blanched. But American Almond also makes nut butters, like almond, pistachio butter or hazelnut butter, as well as some caramelized products called brittle crunches. One of the key categories that’s gaining popularity fast is nut flours - according to Ms. Fliska customers especially love the blanched almond flour that American Almond makes and its very smooth consistency. American Almond also produces piping gelee, a popular type of jelly product for pastry toppings.

A successful move - also thanks to an extraordinary team spirit

“The American Almond move has been a shining example of the whole team on site and all departments involved working together to make this happen. It has been a positive journey for everyone,” she concluded. “This would have never been possible without the hard work and the contribution of everyone in sharing our Barry Callebaut values – one of which is, of course, team spirit.”

To celebrate their accomplishment, the American Almond team will host a grand opening ceremony at the Pennsauken facility on Thursday, June 22, 2017. Magdalini, Nestor, and Patrick... as well other key former Brooklyn folks like Warren Bender and Priscilla Morales are already at full speed organising an exciting event for our customers. For sure, it will be another successful effort the team will accomplish together and that will excite both our customers and Barry Callebaut colleagues in Region Americas.  

Patty Kopitas

Patty Kopitas

As the commercial manager for American Almond, you can find Patty jetting frequently from the Chicago Headquarter to Philadelphia to visit the American Almond Plant which she so affectionately calls "Little Penn." Away from the crowd: wife, soccer/football/swim/PTA mom, who is just trying to remember where she put her daughter's violin.

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