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Slim Jim Picks Up After Plant Tragedy

GARNER, N.C. -- After a very black day June 9, when three workers died and nearly 40 more were injured in an explosion at ConAgra's Slim Jim plant in Garner, N.C., the facility is in business again, working to keep c-stores and other retailers as in stock as much as possible with the popular meat snack sticks.

"The plant is back in production on a limited basis," Dave Jackson, spokesperson for ConAgra Foods, told CSNews Online. Jackson explained the "production part" of the plant was actually unaffected by the accident and was left intact—and that part is back in operation part-time. The company has also started producing Slim Jims in its Troy, Ohio, plant. "We had equipment there, and we wanted to produce products like Slim Jim in multiple locations; this gave us the impetus to get started there," Jackson stated.

The packaging side of the Garner plant, where the product is wrapped and boxed, "is seriously damaged," Jackson added. For that, "we’re using third-party manufacturers to help us wrap and ship the product, so it’s a joint effort," he stated.

Some c-store retailers reported not noticing any store-level out-of-stocks until nearly two months after the accident.

"We were stocked up good before the accident, so we are not completely ‘out’ yet at the store level," relayed Jared Sturtevant, a buyer with Nice N Easy in Canastota, N.Y., with 82 stores. "We just started seeing some of the out-of-stock problems due to [Slim Jim’s] allocation; our distributor did short some of our stores last week."

An anonymous c-store buyer in the south reported having to cancel a bundle promotion the chain was going to do with Slim Jim sticks and a fountain drink. Because it had been building up product at the warehouse level in anticipation of the promotion, it too, reported to be "just now" showing out-of-stocks at the store level.

ConAgra was reportedly working hard to try to "fairly manage" the situation even before production started up again at the Garner plant. "We had about 40 days’ supply at the time of the accident, and we used it to meet customer orders with some allocations," Jackson stated.

As for when things will get back to "normal production" for Slim Jim, Jackson mentioned the fall.

"We cited in a public filing that we will get back to the customer service levels that our customers expect during the September/October timeframe—this is for producing and shipping what we had been doing before the accident," he said.

Regarding missed promotions that some c-store may have experienced, "We’re evaluating any promotions we had scheduled prior to the accident and are looking to restart or continue them later this year," Jackson maintained.

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