The Ashford centre of Premier Foods was congratulated on its 60 years of food production on the same site by Kent County Council Chairman David Brazier as he took a tour of the plant in Kennington Road.
He was escorted round the premises by site manager Simon Ellmore, who showed him the operation of a total of 20 production lines, all using dry ingredients.
The best-known of these come under the Batchelors brand, whose Cup-a-Soup comes in a wide variety of flavours, and Paxo stuffing, which is in great demand at this time of year.
Mr Brazier said: “I am naturally fascinated by automation and I was delighted watch a long roll of joined paper sachets being blown open, filled with ingredients, sealed and separated.
These are packed in retail cartons erected mechanically by flailing metal arms and then shrink-wrapped onto trays which within seconds, before being put on pallets.”
The factory also has a kitchen where samples of every batch of food are tested for quality by staff, making up the product from the packets’ instructions, just as members of the public would do.
Mr Brazier was therefore able to taste a sample of just-made carrot cake, which he decided was “delicious”.
As a food-production plant, the company insists on strict enforcement of health and safety regulations, which includes wearing special shoes, a hairnet and a white coat, with sanitising hand gel applied at regular intervals.
Before the tour, Mr Ellmore outlined the company’s history on the site, which was acquired by Premier Foods from Campbells 11 years ago.
The company invested more than £20 million in the site, expanding output, and it now employs about 360 staff in Ashford.
Mr Brazier said he was also impressed by the company’s charitable initiatives, including the provision of dozens of “goody bags” containing products as raffle prizes for various charities over the year, and the way staff had volunteered to help with projects at the nearby Pilgrims Hospice.
They have already volunteered to clean up the hospice pond next spring.
To mark the site’s 60th anniversary, two members of staff co-ordinated the planting of 60 trees, donated by the Woodland Trust, with tools supplied by B&Q and topsoil by Travis Perkins. Five schools were given 10 trees each, which pupils helped to plant, with the remaining 10 being planted on the factory site.
“It is very gratifying to see a company getting involved in the local community in this way,” said Mr Brazier.