Alta. pet food firm to make U.S. play with Kentucky plant

An Edmonton pet food manufacturer with a penchant for home-grown ingredients plans to expand its reach south of the border with a new U.S. facility, and new U.S. suppliers, in western Kentucky.

Champion Petfoods, which operates plants at Morinville, Alta. and Oakville, Ont., announced Thursday it will build its third kitchen at Auburn, Kentucky, about 90 km north of Nashville, Tenn., creating 147 long-term jobs at a site “closest to our biggest market.”

The company, which sells its dog and cat foods in Canada and 70 other countries under the Acana and Orijen brands, has to date billed itself as sourcing its beef, pork, chicken, lamb, turkey, duck, bison, wild boar and eggs from Alberta producers, saltwater fish from Vancouver Island, fruits and vegetables from Alberta and the Okanagan Valley, and freshwater fish from northern lakes in the three Prairie provinces and Northwest Territories.

Privately-held Champion said Thursday its Canadian kitchens will continue to focus on supplying pet specialty markets in Canada, Europe and Asia. The new Kentucky kitchen, however, is to make Acana and Orijen products for the pet specialty market in the U.S., with its first products expected to be available in 2016.

Rural Kentucky will provide Champion with access to local farmers and growers, “allowing the opportunity to feature a diversity of fresh regional ingredients in its foods,” the company said.

Champion added it expects the Kentucky-made products to taste differently, as the products are “reformulated to fully reflect the regional agriculture.” Management “have not yet determined” whether the made-in-Kentucky products will also be available in Canada.

“The agricultural heritage and proximity to ranches and farms make locating to western Kentucky an excellent choice,” Champion CEO Frank Burdzy said in a release.

“You can be regional anywhere in the world and Kentucky has a great local food culture,” Champion chief brand officer Peter Muhlenfeld said in the same release.

Champion also noted it’s received preliminary approval from the state’s Economic Development Finance Authority for tax incentives of up to US$11 million through the Kentucky Business Investment program to “encourage the investment and job growth” in Logan County, where the plant will be built.

As for its Canadian kitchens, Champion stressed its two plants’ staffing levels will remain the same, it’s “committed to Morinville long-term,” its headquarters will remain in Edmonton and its Oakville plant “will continue with business as usual.” — Network



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