UPDATE: Food manufacturer plans $310M plant, 460 jobs in Shelbyville

Greenleaf Foods SPC, a manufacturer of plant-based burgers, sausages, hot dogs and other vegetarian meat alternatives, plans to build a $310 million production facility in Shelbyville that will employ 460 people when the plant is fully operational in 2021, the company announced Monday.

The plant, to be constructed on a 57-acre site near the intersection of Interstate 74 and State Road 44, will occupy 230,000 square feet and is expected to begin operations in the fourth quarter of 2020. Construction could begin this spring.

Greenleaf said the plant will be the largest plant-based protein facility in North America, producing 60 million pounds of products annually.

The Shelbyville plant will double Greenleaf’s production capacity. Based in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois, Greenleaf currently has 370 employees and two manufacturing facilities—one in Turners Falls, Massachusetts and one in Seattle. The company plans to spend another $26 million to upgrade its existing plants.

Greenleaf was founded last year as an independent subsidiary to oversee the Lightlife and Field Roast brands, which the company says are the top two brands in the refrigerated alternative protein category.

The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ontario-based Maple Leaf Foods Inc.

Maple Leaf said it expects to receive about $50 million in state, utility and local grants and incentives to help fund the plant, including nearly $10 million toward capital and one-time start-up costs and about $40 million in 10-year operational support.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. said it offered Greenleaf Foods up to $5 million in conditional tax credits and $1 million in training grants, based on the job-creation plans. The IEDC also offered up to $1.25 million to the community from the Industrial Development Grant Fund to support infrastructure improvements at the new site.

Greenleaf plans to use a site that was pegged for a factory for Krone North America Inc. in 2016, but Krone called off the deal in 2017, citing a downturn in business. Krone, owned by German-based Bernard Krone Holding GmbH & Co., had planned to build a 200,000-square-foot plant that would employ 101 workers

Maple Leaf said the overall North American plant-based protein market had estimated sales of $1 billion in 2018 and is growing quickly.

"With Lightlife and Field Roast, we own the leading brands in the North American refrigerated plant-based protein market," said Michael H. McCain, president and CEO of Maple Leaf. "This investment will secure our ongoing leadership in this rapidly expanding market. By establishing a large-scale North American network, we will continue to meet rapidly growing demand for delicious protein alternatives and create a centre of excellence for innovation. It will escalate the financial contribution of this business and advance Maple Leaf's vision to be the most sustainable protein company on earth."

Maple Leaf Foods has about 12,000 employees. In 2018, it reported revenue of $2.62 billion and a profit of $76 million.

Greenleaf President Dan Curtin said the company chose Shelbyville because the location made sense from a logistics standpoint, and because of the availability and quality of the local labor force.

“We are incredibly excited. We can’t wait to get this project started,” Curtin told IBJ.

The company produces Lightlife products at its Massachusetts plant and Field Roast products in Seattle. The Shelbyville plant will make products from both brands, Curtin said. As the company launches new products those, too, will be made in Shelbyville.

Growth in the plant-based proteins category is driven by several factors, Curtin said.

More people are adopting vegetarian and vegan diets, Curtin said, but Greenleaf’s customers also include so-called “flexitarians”—people who eat meat but who also want non-meat protein alternatives.

“Where we see the big growth that’s just exploding is in this other segment,” Curtin said.

The Shelbyville site is served by Duke Energy for electricity, Greenwood-based Indiana American Water and Evansville-based Vectren for natural gas. Curtin said all three utility companies are providing incentives to Greenleaf in the form of usage rebates based on the manufacturer’s expected usage.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger and Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun are expected to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the plant Monday afternoon.

“I am thrilled that Shelby County was chosen for this project," DeBaun said in written comments. "It’s further validation that the administrations of the City of Shelbyville and Shelby County are working collaboratively to make this a great place to do business. This project diversifies our employment options locally and regionally as well as bringing tremendous opportunities to our community.”

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