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SunOpta Celebrates $25 Million Expansion at Lehigh Valley Facility

By Colin McEvoy on November 19, 2015

A SunOpta employee oversees a production line of Almond Breeze at the company's Upper Macungie Township facility.

A SunOpta employee oversees a production line of Almond Breeze at the company’s Upper Macungie Township facility.

As SunOpta looked to expand, there was a time when they considered leaving the Lehigh Valley altogether. Instead, they’re celebrating a major expansion project that will create jobs and allow them to continue thriving here in the region for years to come.

The global company focused on natural, organic, and specialty food products held a grand opening ceremony today for a $25 million addition to its Upper Macungie Township facility. The project is expected to create 48 jobs and retain 52 existing jobs, SunOpta previously announced.

One of the company’s largest capital expansion projects to date, the new consumer products facility will boost the company’s aseptic beverage processing and filling capacities. Commercial production has commenced and volumes are expected to ramp-up over the next year.

Rik Jacobs, SunOpta President and CEO, said the new addition, combined with the Lehigh Valley’s proximity to major markets on the East Coast, will give the company a crucial competitive advantage in the growing aseptic processing business.

“The completion of the expansion in Allentown means SunOpta now has aseptic processing facilities on the East and West Coasts, as well as the Midwest,” Jacobs said. “With the addition of aseptic processing in Allentown, we now offer customers one of the largest integrated non-dairy aseptic beverage processing platforms in North America which we believe will offer the lowest landed cost to customers.”

SunOpta held a grand opening ceremony today for a $25 million addition to its Upper Macungie Township facility.

SunOpta held a grand opening ceremony today for a $25 million addition to its Upper Macungie Township facility.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has been involved with this project since mid-2014, and held a series of meetings with SunOpta to assist them on technical issues related to the expansion. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s Governor’s Action Team, a group of economic development professionals from the state who work in collaboration with LVEDC, offered an incentive package for this project.

“When we learned SunOpta was considering other possible sites in other states, we mobilized to try to ensure they reinvested in the Lehigh Valley, which they’ve ultimately done,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “Food and beverage processing is one of the target industry sectors for the Lehigh Valley based on the specific economic assets of our region, and SunOpta is an excellent example of a company from this sector.”

In an LVEDC-commissioned study released last year, Atlanta-based Garner Economics identified food and beverage processing as one of the four target industry sectors for the Lehigh Valley based on the site-specific characteristics of the regional economy.

They include the region’s central location, well-developed transportation infrastructure, strong workforce, availability of water and sewer lines to industrial sites, availability of agricultural products for food processing, and superior water quality due to pre-treatment water facilities.

The expansion of aseptic capabilities in the Lehigh Valley is part of SunOpta’s broader focus on growing its consumer packaged goods business, company officials said.

Last month, SunOpta completed its acquisition of Sunrise Growers, a leading supplier of frozen fruit in North America, and integrated its acquisition of Niagara Natural, an innovative and fast-growing manufacturer of better-for-you fruit snacks

“The aseptic processing expansion in Allentown aligns well with our strategy to aggressively grow our integrated field-to-table consumer packaged goods business,” Jacobs said. “The expansion of our Allentown facility enhances the value-added consumer packaged goods portfolio we offer customers in the healthy beverage, fruit and snack categories. Combined with our industry leading global ingredients business, and vertically integrated platform, we’re pleased to provide customers with value-added products at every step of the supply chain.”

SunOpta’s vertically integrated aseptic beverage capabilities incorporate raw material sourcing through ingredient production and finished packaged products, providing for control of quality, organic certification, and traceability from the farm to finished packaged product.

Current production capabilities include soymilk, rice beverage, almond beverage, coconut based beverages, other grain based beverages, nutritional beverages, teas, dairy products and broths among others.

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