Smallgoods producer Farmland Foods is signalling future employment opportunities as it expands into the former Mars Petcare property in Bryce St, Castlecliff.
The Bulls-based company will soon enter a commissioning phase as it transitions the property to its food production requirements.
Mars, which employed around 140 people, stopped operations at its Whanganui facility on December 18 in a cost-saving move that will transfer production of cat food pouches to a factory in Thailand. The same day it was announced that Farmland Foods had purchased the Castlecliff site.
Bayleys Whanganui managing director John Bartley said the undisclosed sale price "exceeded expectations and is unrivalled in terms of transactional value for an industrial property in the region in recent years".
Bartley said the two-stage sales campaign drew on Bayleys' nationwide team to bring the deal together and the Farmlands Foods operation will bring "tangible benefit" to the regional economy.
"Understandably, when Mars Petcare announced its closure after 27 years of manufacturing in Whanganui, there was an element of sadness that the region was losing a valued business entity and committed employer," he said.
"However, the announcement that Farmlands Foods would expand their proven operation into Whanganui has been welcomed and its business track record across three generations is very positive for the wider regional economy.
"We were heartened by the amount of interest we received for the property, with the initial expressions of interest stage of the marketing coaxing out multiple parties – many of whom went on to submit offers via the deadline private treaty process that followed."
The property is part of the Castlecliff industrial precinct which is home to other food-related operations such as meat processing.
The freehold 1.55ha site, which has a rateable value of $3,430,000, is zoned manufacturing/industrial 7A and has 5490 square metres of buildings including offices, comprehensive staff amenities, extensive manufacturing, packaging and storage facilities, workshop and plant rooms, with on-site parking for more than 100 vehicles.
"Looking ahead, there is scope to extend the building footprint within site boundaries and this appealed to a broad range of prospective buyers including developers, owner-occupiers, add-value investors and passive investors," Bartley said.
Farmland Foods began as a family butcher shop in 1964 and is a 100 per cent locally-owned family business that currently operates from a production facility based on the Davis family's rural property near Bulls.
The directors and their families have lived in Whanganui since 1994 and say they are committed to the region and to supporting local manufacturing.
Increased demand for its products has resulted in the company experiencing steady growth for several years.
Managing director Eddie Davis said the purchase of the Mars facility is a natural progression for Farmlands.
"The addition of another site will add the capacity we need for growth and will future proof our current business and operations supplying smallgoods, bacon and ham to supermarkets nationwide."
Farmland Foods currently employs around 120 staff and plans to expand into the Bryce St facility in the coming months.
"We are committed to growing this number as we continue to build our business in Whanganui," Davis said.
"In addition to future employment opportunities, the site's conversion to a food manufacturing facility will support Whanganui businesses through the plant commissioning process and we are proud to be in a position to continue strengthening employment and growth in the region."