Canadian Manufacturing

Investment group announces plans to take over Ontario Heinz plant

Highbury Canco Corp. has reached agreement with Heinz to take over operations of plant in July

TORONTO—A group of Ontario-based investors has confirmed it plans to save the 105-year-old H.J. Heinz Co. of Canada Ltd. plant in southwestern Ontario slated for closure this year.

According to Highbury Canco Corp., it has signed a letter of intent with Heinz to take over operations of the Leamington, Ont., plant in July.

Under terms of the agreement with Heinz, Highbury and its management team would take over the plant and “transition to manufacturing, co-packaging and distribution of certain products” in the summer.

The group did not disclose which products those were.

“As a member of this community, I am honoured to be a part of this team who is focused on saving important jobs at the Heinz plant in Leamington,” investment consortium member and current plant manager Sam Diab said in a statement. “We have a knowledgeable workforce, a vibrant local community, and this is a solid plan for a bright future.”

Highbury said it plans to employ about 250 people at the facility when it takes over, plus an undisclosed number of seasonal employees.

The plant near Windsor, Ont., currently employs approximately 740 people.

The investment group said its growth plan, including additional investments in the plant, would provide additional employment opportunities down the road.

“We believe that our investment in Leamington will become the cornerstone to providing Ontario’s agricultural products around the world, not just in Canada,” said Pradeep Sood, a member of Highbury and spokesperson for the team.

“(Highbury) understands how to sell in emerging markets and we believe we can provide a nimble, proactive, customer-focused source of Canadian products for the world.”

Highbury said it plans to move quickly with the deal—including confirming “commitments made by its strategic partners”—in order to avoid issues with the 2014 tomato crop.

The announcement by Highbury comes after rumours began to swirl earlier this week that the plant would be taken over by a firm looking to process tomato juice.

Heinz originally announced plans to close the plant in November 2013.

“I want to congratulate Heinz and Canco for their decision to reinvest in the Leamington facility,” Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment Dr. Eric Hoskins said in a statment.

“This is good news for workers, local farmers, non-food suppliers and distributors, and for the Leamington area.”

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