The future of a planned $310 million Greenleaf Foods SPC production facility in Shelbyville is uncertain now that Greenleaf plans to spend $100 million to acquire a Caito Foods LLC site in Indianapolis and turn that space into a production site.
Greenleaf, based in the Chicago suburb of Elmhurst, Illinois, is a subsidiary of Mississauga, Ontario-based Maple Leaf Foods. It makes plant-based cheeses and meat substitutes for burgers, hot dogs and sausages under the Lightlife and Field Roast brands.
Greenleaf said Monday that it plans to acquire a 118,000-square-foot building from Caito and transform it into a production facility for the soy-based meat substitute tempeh. The building is at 3120 N. Post Road, adjacent to Caito’s existing distribution center. The cost of the property acquisition and outfitting will be about $100 million, Maple Leaf said.
Maple Leaf said it expects to close on the property acquisition in early April.
The plant should be ready for use in the first half of 2022 and will employ about 115 people when it’s fully operational, Maple Leaf said. If tempeh demand continues to grow as expected, Maple Leaf said it would proceed with a second expansion that could double the plant’s production capacity.
“At this juncture, given the high demand for our tempeh products, this project offers us the ability to deliver incremental capacity in a cost-effective, timely manner in a location that has synergies with our long-term vision,” Maple Leaf President and CEO Michael McCain said in the written statement.
It’s unclear exactly how the Indianapolis project will affect Greenleaf’s previously announced plans in Shelbyville.
In April 2019, Greenleaf announced plans to build a 230,000-square-foot production facility in Shelbyville, on a 57-acre site near the intersection of Interstate 74 and State Road 44. At the time, Greenleaf said it expected the plant would begin production in late 2020 and would employ 460 people at the facility once it was fully operational in 2021.
But that project has been delayed by COVID-19 and other factors. To date, site prep—but no actual construction—has taken place at the Shelbyville site.
Brian Asher, executive director of the Shelby County Development Corp., called the news “a temporary hiccup,” and said Greenleaf has told him that Shelbyville is still part of the company’s long-term plans. “We feel confident in continuing to move forward,” he said.
Greenleaf had an immediate need for new production capacity, Asher said, and Shelby County doesn’t have any existing buildings it could make available. But as demand for Greenleaf’s meatless products continues to grow, Asher said, “There’s a greater need (for Greenleaf) than just the one product that’s going into the Indianapolis plant.”
Asher said the company has given him no indication that they will scale back the size of the Shelbyville project, though he said the uncertainties of the pandemic make the timeline for the project unclear.
“By leveraging the opportunity to acquire an existing facility in Indianapolis to fast-track tempeh production, the company will be able to meet near-term, growing demand for tempeh while allowing more time to develop its longer-term vision for Shelbyville,” Maple Leaf said in Monday’s statement.
Caito, a produce distributor at the corner of 33rd Street and Post Road on the city’s far-east side, has significantly scaled back its operations over the last two years.
Caito’s owner, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based SpartanNash Co., announced in August 2019 that it was shutting down Caito’s Fresh Kitchen meal production division, which had opened less than three years earlier in a new $32 million, 120,000-square-foot facility. The decision eliminated 53 Indianapolis jobs.
And, in February, SpartanNash announced it was closing its Fresh Cut division, eliminating 333 workers who cut and packaged fresh produce for distribution to retailers. Caito’s produce distribution business remains in operation.
SpartanNash spokeswoman Meredith Gremel said Caito’s distribution activities will continue at 8735 E. 33rd St. “We are still operating a robust produce operation out of our distribution center in Indianapolis.”