Apricots have been flowing down the processing lines of the Shepparton SPC factory as the facility gears up for the peak of the processing season.
Apricot processing started prior to Christmas and is expected to wind up this week, but the biggest crops — tomatoes and peaches — are yet to come.
The company expects to process up to 45000 tonnes of tomatoes grown in the Goulburn Valley this season, with the lines starting up in February.
Manufacturing general manager Simon Taylor said the Ardmona brand, in traditional cans, remained popular.
‘‘I think people know they are getting a quality, locally grown product,’’ Mr Taylor said.
SPC is utilising its automated snack pack line, running 48 weeks of the year, to make up to 40 different products in plastic cups.
SPC is manufacturing fruit snack packs geared towards hospital consumption, featuring easy lift plastic lids and custom sized fruit portions, for South Australian hospitals.
The company is still trying to convince Victorian hospitals of the value of using locally manufactured product.
Employment is expected to peak at about 650 people when the biggest crops hit the processing lines.
Mr Taylor is excited about the prospects for this year, as parent company Coca-Cola Amatil will soon announce further investment in processing machinery.
However, he is concerned energy prices are impacting the bottom line.
The company has copped a $4million increase in the cost of gas and electricity in the past financial year, representing a 60 per cent cost increase.
‘‘We’re doing a feasibility study at the moment on alternatives and we’re working with Regional Development Victoria,’’ Mr Taylor said.
‘‘We’ve had a lot of support from the state government and we are looking at alternatives to gas for our boilers, but also to manage our processes more efficiently.’’
Solar energy, LED lighting and load management are part of the feasibility study.
SPC management has met with Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio to explain the impacts of energy costs on the business.
Mr Taylor said affordable energy prices used to be a strong selling point for manufacturing in Victoria, but if the prices kept climbing, businesses would have to make some tough decisions.