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California: another plant expected to exit the business?

07/02/2020 - François-Xavier Branthôme
Future of Stockton tomato-processing plant uncertain

Mizkan America, the company that operates the long-time tomato-processing plant in east Stockton, best known as the long-time manufacturer of Ragu and Bertolli pasta sauces, is looking to exit the business. It employs 35 full-time employees and up to 250 seasonal union employees during the peak of the tomato harvest. That has sparked talk among the company's hundreds of seasonal and full-time workers that the plant may be shutting down or is being sold. Either way, it is unsettling to the plant's employees, many who have worked there for decades.

A spokeswoman for the Japanese-based company's U.S. affiliate in Mount Prospect, Illinois, said in a statement Tuesday: "Mizkan has made a preliminary decision to exit the tomato-processing business that operates out of the Stockton, California, plant. This decision is only preliminary and is not yet final. For this reason, we have no additional comment at this time," according to Mizkan America director of communications Deborah Cross.

A union representative said they were notified last week that Mizkan had sold the tomato processing plant to another Northern California tomato processor. According to sources that company is The Morning Star Packing Company, Williams.

Mizkan took over the Stockton plant in July 2014 as part of its USD 2.15 billion purchase of the Ragu and Bertolli brands from international consumer goods company Unilever. At that time, company chairman and CEO Kazuhide Nakano said: "Mizkan is strongly committed to the long-term growth of Ragu and Bertolli, and we will work to help ensure that both brands continue to grow and prosper."
An executive with Mizkan America said: "The Stockton plant is vital to the manufacturing process of our Ragu and Bertolli brands."

Source: The Record

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