Ruiz Foods’ newly expanded Denison, Texas, plant illustrates how this frozen foods processor commits to its employees, customers and consumers.

When walking into Ruiz Food Products’ newly expanded Denison, Texas, plant, you’re instantly surrounded by stainless steel. From the handwashing machine to the 1,600-pound mixers, it’s “one of the shiniest and prettiest facilities the USDA has ever seen,” according to Brian Miller, senior vice president of supply chain.

Fast Facts

Company: Ruiz Food Products, Inc.

Plant Location: Denison, Texas

Total Square Feet: 315,000

Distribution: Nationwide and Canada

No. of Employees: 1,000

No. of Processing Lines: 5

No. of Packaging Lines: 5

Certifications: USDA/FSIS, BRC

But, it’s the Dinuba, Calif.-based company’s attention to detail—from food safety certifications all the way down to the toast marks on its tortillas—and its steadfast commitment to people and product that awarded Ruiz Foods as Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ 2015 Frozen Foods Processor of the Year, an honor this company has received for the third time (Ruiz Foods first graced the cover in September 2004 and then again in January 2011).

From humble beginnings as a small-time distributor to mom-and-pop shops to a family-owned company that produces El Monterey and Tornados branded products for U.S. and Canada retail and foodservice outlets, Ruiz Foods continues to make good on its promises.

Making a sustainability statement

Ruiz Foods carried out its commitment to its employees, the environment and to produce safe, quality food when it acquired the existing Denison facility in 2005, which recently underwent a 55,000-square-foot expansion, including two new production lines, insulated manufacturing panels (IMPs) and the use of stainless steel from top down. The Denison site also switched from traditional ammonia to food-grade glycol throughout the production areas to provide an added element of safety.

“When we make a commitment to our customers, we accept the full responsibility to get the job done. Our commitment is our word and our commitment is to provide world-class levels and beyond in everything we do,” says Miller.

Even more so, Ruiz Foods went beyond the common USDA/FSIS certifications to also receive BRC certification (pending as of press time) and an annual GMP/food safety certification from Chicago-based Silliker Laboratories Group.

Additional sustainability initiatives are in place to include recycling 98% of cardboard and 98% of plastic, recycling 98% cooked food waste (up from 20% in 2006) and reducing the amount of waste overall by 90% thanks to new equipment designed to prolong the life of cooking oil.

Ruiz Foods also instituted a Safety 24/7 No Excuses program, which provides safety, training and awareness for products, people and equipment.

“Our program focuses on loss prevention, loss control, compliance and administration, an improving safety culture and environmental safety,” says Miller.

To further enforce worker safety, Ruiz Foods established a Required Safety Training Topic each month, where all supply chain team members gather to discuss topics chosen for monthly training applications both in the plant and at home.

“One program, which I believe is unique to Ruiz Foods, is our stretching program,” adds Miller. “Before each shift, team members are asked to complete a series of stretching exercises that they are encouraged to repeat several times a day. Team members are also scheduled ‘left to right’ and ‘right to left’—another ergonomic exercise—during the course of their shift. We firmly believe our commitment to safety directly correlates to our current injury incident rate, which is below the federal industry average for our size of company.”

Making room for breakfast

At the time of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’  visit, the 315,000-square-foot Denison facility was producing a variety from its new line of breakfast burritos (for more on this new product and other company news, go to “Ruiz Foods Throws a Fiesta in the Freezercase”). In fact, the Denison plant produces enough product, that “if placed end to end, would take you around the Earth four times,” says Miller.

Ingredients to fill the breakfast burritos are assembled in the kitchen, then rolled in to the main production lines.

All tortillas are made on site; in fact, Ruiz Foods is said to be the largest tortilla manufacturer integrating its tortillas into products in the frozen Mexican food category. To create the tortillas, flour, oil and water mix together in an extra-large mixer for approximately 12-15 minutes, then dump into dough chunker, which cuts the dough up into tortilla-shaped pieces. From there, the tortilla dough enters the extruder, where tortillas extrude out and scraps of the dough convey back up to be re-used in the next batch.

“The tortilla line produces about 7,500 dozen tortillas an hour,” says Miller, “and runs about 4-5 batches of dough an hour.”

After tortillas are shaped, they convey into a 3-layer oven for dehydration, marking and tempering at roughly 450°F for less than 30 seconds.

“The oven produces what we call toast marks, which is what gives the tortillas their authenticity,” adds Miller. “You’re only going to see them on one side, the outside of the burrito, just as if they were made by mom at home.”

After the tortillas bake through, they convey into a stacker, and then into a carton that is then wheeled into the main production line, where four 1,600-pound mixers dump filler (the ingredients) into four different depositors. Each depositor releases a set amount of ingredients onto a tortilla, which then travels through a proprietary folding machine, where “metal hands” fold the tortillas four different ways at -50°F.

Once chilled, burritos travel into the packaging room, where a form-fill-seal machine encloses each burrito into plastic wrap for either single-serve packaging or to be boxed in a multi-pack. Then, packaged burritos travel under a laser x-ray and coding machine and are then boxed up for distribution out of one of the plant’s five docks.

The Denison plant maintains three shifts—two for production and a third for maintenance and sanitation.

Whether it’s developing a new product, adding a new line or installing new energy efficient features, Ruiz Foods continues to make good on its commitments to its employees, customers and consumers. 

Go here to check out the full photo gallery of the Denison, Texas, plant tour.