Kraft Heinz plant at Ingleside
Cheese plant takeover awaits final federal approval
By Tom Van Dusen
April 5, 2019 - Ingleside – The old sign is still in place and five months after the sale of the Kraft Heinz plant here to Parmalat Canada was first announced, the transition remains temporarily stalled while awaiting final federal approval.
South Stormont Township council which supports the new ownership has been told Canadian government approval is a technicality, said Mayor Brian McGillis, adding that Parmalat representatives he and council members have met with have been nothing but positive and helpful.
Undergoing the approval process is standard in a deal like this, explained Parmalat spokesperson Molly Chudnovsky who expects it to be completed by June. The process was launched last fall at about the time the Parmalat acquisition was announced; to date, Chudnovsky stated, there are no hitches other than time limitations.
McGillis likes the fact the new owner is already talking expansion, likely meaning more jobs. The timing is excellent because the municipality is planning a $30 million upgrade of its Ingleside wastewater treatment plant and will factor Parmalat’s needs into the mix. Chudnovsky confirmed expansion is contemplated as market conditions warrant.
For the 400 employees of the factory located in this village reconstructed after the St. Lawrence Seaway and Moses-Saunders Power Dam were installed 60 years ago, it has been business as usual. When the $1.6 billion acquisition was announced, Parmalat Canada president Mark Taylor visited Ingleside to pledge that all jobs would be retained and managers would remain in place.
The municipality’s largest employer, the mayor observed that Kraft Heinz has been a model corporate citizen for many years and he expects more of the same under Parmalat: “We’re talking 400 good jobs in this community plus all the spinoffs. We’re expecting continuation of the status quo.”
When completed, the deal has been described as an opportunity for Kraft Heinz to trim its debt while permitting Parmalat’s France-based parent company Lactalis Group to extend its North American footprint. It already operates 16 Canadian dairy processing plants and a Research & Development Centre, employing 3,000 people across the country.
The Ingleside addition to the Parmalat portfolio confirms it as the dominant milk processor in Central and Eastern Ontario with other plants in Winchester and Belleville, as well as Victoriaville, Que. The only other major cheese maker in the region is independent St. Albert Cheese Factory, a 125-year-old cooperative with 2000 outlets doing $40 million in business a year.
Over the years, Parmalat factories have cemented their reputation in the cheese making field by winning several national and international awards, including for the iconic Balderson brand which it took over several years ago. In addition to its own Black Diamond cheese, well-known brands the company gains from the Kraft Heinz buy include Cracker Barrel, P’tit Quebec, and aMOOza; all brands will remain distinct with their own established consumer appeal.
The Ingleside deal has been described by Parmalat as good for farmers, consumers, retailers, and the community in general because the company is dedicated to sustainable growth and to generally advancing Canada’s cheese business.
The Ingleside transaction is a logical step for Parmalat in helping to improve efficiencies, expand operations in Eastern Canada and in positioning it for future growth; the move will allow use of more of the milk ingredients it produces, permitting Parmalat to become more self-sufficient, reduce waste and grow the business.
Parmalat’s community relations don’t always flow smoothly. In Winchester, it ran into opposition from residential neighbours in 2017 over waste and odour complaints accompanying a $15 million capacity expansion which were eventually resolved.
A major difference between the Winchester and Ingleside factories is that the former is located in the centre of the village and surrounded by homes, while the latter is outside the main residential sector.