Benefits Baked In

Food products maker receives incentives, lower energy costs with energy efficiency upgrades

A food products maker keeps its plants bright and busy 24/7 for more than 360 days a year churning out a variety of products that are trucked across the U.S. and Canada. During one shift, an employee trekked to a basement storage area – one of the few spots in the fully illuminated plant not bustling with employees – when a light bulb went off in his head: wouldn’t it be useful to only turn lights on when needed?

The business hatched a plan for improvements that brought even more savings into the mix than they expected.

Mike Callier, plant superintendent for Gilster-Mary Lee’s cereal and cake plants, in one of the loading facilities in Perryville, Mo. The company has made more than 8,000 different food products for over 500 different brands.

Gilster-Mary Lee received $8,713 in Power Moves® rebates from Citizens Electric Corp., its local electric cooperative, for energy efficiency upgrades in three of its Perryville, Mo., plants. Gilster-Mary Lee installed variable frequency drives (VFDs) on fans, a motor and a water pump. VFDs provide greater control on a wide range of equipment such as those motors, fans and pumps. The company also upgraded to LEDs, which are brighter and use less energy than traditional lighting, along with occupancy sensors in several locations, including one of the plants’ basement storage areas. Altogether the upgrades save 208,156 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

“With a little prioritization and doing the math, we found that this is a positive step for our company,” said Jack Hutchinson, who leads corporate engineering and compliance for Gilster-Mary Lee. “The rebates are absolutely a plus, without a doubt. It’s one of the best sales pitches I have to do the projects.”

Gilster-Mary Lee creates more than 8,000 products including baking mixes, cereal and macaroni and cheese for more than 500 brands. The company’s products can be found in most grocery stores in the U.S., and the company has daily shipments going to Canada and Latin America. Gilster-Mary Lee even exports food products to the Middle East.

The outside of a Gilster-Mary Lee plant in Perryville, Mo. The company was founded in the 19th century and today operates 13 manufacturing facilities in three states.

Employees installed a VFD on one of two controls that operate a water pump to see how it would work; the energy savings were so significant that they started to use the control with the VFD more frequently and plan to add a VFD to the second control. VFDs also prolongs the lifecycle of motors, which improves the company’s maintenance and replacement costs, Hutchinson said. As production costs increased in 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic, the cost savings brought by the energy efficiency upgrades can help minimize their impact, he added.

“We are looking at the numbers in terms of savings,” Hutchinson added, “and the more of these projects that we do, the more that picture becomes obvious.”

In the basement storage area, fluorescent lights were always on when the plant was open. The company then installed occupancy sensors on each light, so that only the lights that are needed turn on when someone walks nearby.

“For sure that’s a savings,” said Mike Callier, plant superintendent for Gilster-Mary Lee’s cereal and cake plants. “They told us what we were going to save going to the LEDs, but they couldn’t tell us what we were going to save with the lights being off 80 to 90 percent of the time. They used to be always on. Now it’s totally the opposite.”

Trucks that are part of Gilster-Mary Lee’s fleet.

Gilster-Mary Lee employees already have discussed future energy efficiency upgrades with Citizens Electric Corp. employees. They are hopeful that several future projects can lead to additional significant energy savings – and lower costs.

“Every business has unique energy needs, and Gilster-Mary Lee certainly fits that bill,” said Van Robinson, CEO of Citizens Electric Corp. “It’s hard to find a grocery store in the U.S. that does not have a Gilster-Mary Lee product on the shelf. We are committed to work with the company and all businesses on our lines to foster their success.”


  • Installation of variable frequency drives (VFDs) on fans, motor and water pump
  • Upgrade lighting and installation of occupancy sensors


  • Citizens Electric Corp.

Partnership Highlights

  • Power Moves rebates for energy efficiency replacements that save 208,156 kWh annually
  • Collaboration with local electric co-op in planning for future energy needs

Financial Impact

  • $8,713 in Power Moves® rebates for energy efficiency upgrades
  • Additional savings in long-term energy costs



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