A $23.3 million expansion of Kraft Heinz’s food manufacturing complex in Montreal will see the company resume making Heinz ketchup for Canada, in Canada.
The U.S.-based food processing giant and the Quebec government on Nov. 17 announced the expansion plan for the company’s Mont Royal plant, which today makes products such as KD Mac + Cheese, Philadelphia cream cheese, Renee’s dressings and Kraft peanut butter.
The new ketchup line is expected to start operating in late summer of 2021 and produce over 100 million pounds of Heinz ketchup for the Canadian market within its first two years, “as production ramps up.”
The expansion is expected to add about 30 jobs at Mont Royal and help maintain about 750 more, provincial Transport Minister Chantal Rouleau said in a release from investment agency Investissement Quebec International.
Heinz ketchup sold in Canada has been made at plants in the U.S. since 2014, shortly after the company said it would shut its processing plant at Leamington, Ont., southeast of Windsor. Kraft Heinz reached a deal the following summer to sell that plant to a consortium of Ontario investors operating as Highbury Canco.
Kraft Heinz today bills itself as Highbury Canco’s largest customer, using Leamington-grown tomatoes in Heinz tomato juice and canned beans and Classico pasta sauces, among other non-ketchup goods. Kraft Heinz also still runs a tomato seed operation out of Leamington, supplying most processing-grade Heinz tomato seeds used on farms in Eastern Canada and the eastern U.S.
But the provenance of Heinz ketchup sold in Canada since 2014 has been a sore spot for some consumers, who vowed on social media to seek out rival ketchups made at plants within Canada.
“Kraft Heinz Canada is pleased to partner with the Quebec government on this investment in bringing ketchup production back to Canada from the U.S.,” Bruno Keller, president for Kraft Heinz Canada, said Nov. 17 in the company’s release.
“Through our partnership with Quebec and increased efficiencies at our Mont Royal facility, it became possible to return this iconic product back to Canada for Canadians at this time.”
Other media outlets have quoted company representatives as saying the tomatoes feeding the Montreal plant will at first continue to come from U.S. farms with which the company has contracts, though more of those tomatoes may be sourced from Canada in the future.
The Montreal plant, Keller said, “has been an important part of the Quebec economy for over six decades, and we are delighted to be able to help feed more Canadians every day thanks to investments like this one.”
The Quebec government’s hand in the project is a $2 million loan from Investissement Quebec’s ESSOR program, which offers loans, loan guarantees or financial assistance to”substantial long-term development projects” carried out within Quebec involving eligible expenditures of at least $100,000.
“With this new production line, (Kraft Heinz) is taking concrete steps to ramp up local production and continue its growth here,” Stephane Paquet, CEO of Montreal economic development agency Montreal International, said in Investissement Quebec’s release.
“This decision is proof positive that foreign subsidies too have a role to play in promoting and expanding local sourcing.”
Heinz’s relationship with Canada dates back to 1909, when Henry Heinz picked Leamington as “the most suitable site” for a pickle packing plant, the first expansion of his company’s operations outside the U.S. — Glacier FarmMedia Network