Heinz to sell Canadian plant to Highbury Canco Corp.

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A Canadian co-packer has agreed to buy an H.J. Heinz Co. plant in Leamington, Ontario, that had been set to close soon, a move that could save several hundred jobs in that community.

Heinz announced this morning that it had signed a letter of intent to sell the plant to Highbury Canco Corp., which will then make products for the Pittsburgh food company. Terms of the deal were not announced, nor the exact products that will come out of the historic plant.

“Under the terms of this letter of intent, we will continue to manufacture certain identified Heinz products and as well provide certain distribution and logistics services to Heinz in Canada,” said Pradeep Sood, representing the principals of Highbury, in a prepared statement.

“In the next few weeks, we look forward to working closely with all our strategic partners including local farmers, the workforce, the local community and all levels of government to finalize the agreement with Heinz,” he said.

Workers at the Ontario plant, which started making Heinz products in the early 20th century, were notified last year that it and two other North American facilities would be closed as new ownership of Heinz looked for ways to streamline production and cut costs. The Leamington closing would cut 740 jobs, according to the company. It was a blow to a community nicknamed the Tomato Capital of Canada.

Following the announcement, local officials began working to identify businesses that supplied the plant and try to seek out new opportunities for them. Heinz also agreed to payments to affected farmers and workers.

The company said this morning that there had been a lot of interest in the plant.

“A testament to the hard-working town of Leamington, Heinz received many expressions of interest in the facility, and we are pleased to identify a strong new partner for the community and for Heinz,” said Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate and government affairs, in this morning’s announcement.

Earlier this week, Heinz notified employees at two plants in Europe that those facilities would be closed and work shifted elsewhere. The plants in Belgium and Germany employ almost 350 people.

Teresa F. Lindeman: tlindeman@post-gazette.com or at 412-263-2018.

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