The family-owned Farmland Foods company is delighted to have the former Mars Petcare factory in Whanganui to expand business into, director Garth Davis says.
It is being re-purposed and could employ about 20 people by this time next year.
Farmland Foods employs 150 people making smallgoods and cooked deli meats at a property in Tennants Rd, near Bulls.
It experienced growth last year due to Covid-19 and is looking to expand and possibly export.
It sells about 6000 tonnes of cooked meat a year.
Farmland Foods is owned by the Davis family, with four generations working in it. Dad Allan and sons Garth, Reuben and Eddie are all directors.
Most of the meat they process is sold in New Zealand supermarkets. They make bacon, ham, salami and deli meats. They gained market share last year, when some delicatessens were closed and people had a preference for food that was untouched and in packages.
The business gets grassfed beef from a range of New Zealand meatworks, Davis said. Its pork is from New Zealand, Canada, the United States and Europe.
It is one of the biggest buyers of New Zealand pork.
Its staff include butchers and knifehands, as well as other specialists and labourers. They commute to the Tennants Rd factory from towns across the region, including Whanganui.
Production aims to be sustainable, with efficient use of energy and water and minimal waste, Davis said.
The Tennants Rd factory uses and treats bore water. It discharges wastewater onto land that grows three crops of silage a year.
It's managed by Colin Fergus, who used to manage Mars Petcare and once stood for Whanganui District Council.
The Davises bought the 1.55ha Mars property in December last year, for an undisclosed price. It includes 5490 sq m of buildings and a large carpark.
The family have lived in Whanganui since 1994, and are keen to keep the site working, employing local people and in local ownership. Flexible shifts for Whanganui people will be possible once production starts.
Davis is happy to pay Whanganui's trade waste fees.
"I think everybody has to take their fair share. It's a user pays system and we are more than happy to contribute."
He's delighted with all the useful infrastructure Mars has left behind, and said the sellers and Whanganui people have been generally supportive. The site will now be prepared for its new use, starting with a new freezer that is fully insulated and uses non-ozone depleting gases.
By early next year it should be ready to accept the frozen meat the company processes, about 50 per cent of its total raw material. After that a first few Farmland staff, about six, will start work there.
By mid year the plant may employ 20, with a top number of 60 or more eventually.
Farmland Foods is going through a re-branding. It hopes to transition toward making smaller portion packs to avoid waste, and meal-ready products for convenience. It will also want to limit its plastic packaging and drive toward recyclability, Davis said.
The business began in 1964, when a Davis grandfather was a butcher in Palmerston North and his son Allan started making pies as a sideline. He and his brothers split the pie business off. It became Cobblestone Pies, which they sold in 1978.
In that year Allan Davis bought the Tennants Rd farm as an investment for his six children. He started making corned silverside there, and expanded production into other cooked meats.