Smucker's to expand Lexington Jif plant

ssloan@herald-leader.comFebruary 22, 2013 

The parent company of Jif peanut butter announced this week it will proceed with a major expansion of the Lexington plant on Winchester Road that produces the famed grocery staple.

The J.M. Smucker Co. plans to spend $43.7 million to make equipment upgrades and build a plant on site for tempering. That process sets the product structure for consistency to ensure that it's not too thin or thick, company spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher said in a statement.

The expansion will help Smucker's "increase capacity, support a robust new product pipeline and continue to produce the highest-quality products to meet growing consumer demand," Badertscher said.

The investment in Lexington's plant is one of several changes for the company's peanut butter products. Smucker's will convert a Memphis plant that had made fruit spreads, toppings and syrups into a peanut butter plant for its natural brands, including Smucker's, Adams, Santa Cruz Organic and Laura Scudder's. Production should begin there in summer 2014.

The company's existing natural peanut butter plant in New Bethlehem, Pa., will be converted to make products including the Jif hazelnut spreads.

Lexington's plant, though, will "continue to be the main production location for our Jif peanut butter products, manufacturing the majority of volume for our total peanut butter business," Badertscher said.

The company does not anticipate adding any jobs in Lexington as a result of the expansion.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority gave preliminary approval in January for $2 million in state tax incentives for the project. The tax incentive program does not require job creation. However, it does require that Smucker's retain at least 90 percent of the existing 279 full-time jobs at the plant. The jobs pay an average hourly wage of $24.25, excluding benefits, according to state documents.

Smucker's bought Jif and Crisco from Procter & Gamble in 2002. The Jif brand dates to 1946, when it was founded as Big Top peanut butter and manufactured by Lexington businessman W.T. Young. In 1955, Young sold the business to P&G, which changed the name to Jif.

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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