Smucker to keep Memphis plant open, repurpose Pennsylvania plant

By Betty Lin-Fisher
Beacon Journal business writer

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The J.M. Smucker Co. on Monday announced changes to two of its production facilities in Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

The Orrville-based food company said growth in its Jif peanut butter business — which has more than doubled since the brand was acquired in 2002 — means a plant in Memphis, Tenn., will not be closed. Also, a plant in New Bethlehem, Pa., will be reconfigured.

The Memphis plant, which produced jams and jellies, had been scheduled to close this year. The plant had 161 workers. In 2010, Smucker had planned a 2013 closing.

The plant had maintained a smaller fruit spread operation with 50 employees and the decision has been made to reorganize the facility, said Smucker spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher.

“With the new Memphis operation for peanut butter and limited fruit spread, we believe we will operate with 125 employees,” she said.

The facility will produce Smucker’s natural peanut butter brands, such as Smucker’s Adam’s Santa Cruz Organic and Laura Scudder’s. Production is expected to begin by summer 2014.

The company also said it would be converting its natural peanut butter facility in New Bethlehem into production of nut butter products. The change will enable the company to “better support the rapidly growing nut butter segment, which includes our Jif hazelnut spreads,” the company said.

In Pennsylvania, there are currently 60 employees and the company believes it can operate the plant with 30 employees. The employees affected by the loss of positions will be given the opportunity to go to the Memphis facility.

Employees at both are not unionized.

Badertscher said there could be a possibility for employees who were previously severed in Memphis to reapply for the new jobs. However, the peanut butter operation is “a definite different skill set. They would have to go through the same interview process as the public,” she said.

The remaining Memphis employees who believed their jobs would be terminated at closure will get to keep their jobs.

The company also said it would further invest in its peanut butter operations in Lexington, Ky., as the facility will continue to be the main production location for Jif products.

Badertscher said the company was not disclosing the amount of money it was investing in the plants, but said it was “significant.”

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.


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