Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Spitz to continue using Canadian sunflower seed

Frito-Lay to shut company's flagship plant at Bow Island, Alta.

(Bruce Fritz photo courtesy ARS/USDA)

The parent company for sunflower seed processor Spitz is poised to close the plant in the brand’s home town, but says it’s still “committed” to Canadian-grown seeds.

PepsiCo, the U.S. parent for Frito-Lay, the owner of Spitz International since 2008, announced Thursday it will close the company’s processing plant at Bow Island, Alta., about 60 km southwest of Medicine Hat, “later this year.”

Spitz production, the company said, will then move to an “existing contract manufacturer partner” in the U.S.

PepsiCo spokesperson Sheri Morgan said Tuesday the location of the new co-packer isn’t yet confirmed.

Closing the plant at Bow Island, where growers Tom and Emmy Droog founded Spitz in 1982, is “a business decision based on an extensive evaluation of the long-term viability of this site and its ability to meet our increasing volume requirements for the brand,” PepsiCo said.

However, Morgan said via email, the parent firm is “proud of our relationships with our Canadian sunflower seed growers and are committed to using their quality seeds which have helped to make Spitz the market leader in Canada.”

The Spitz brand will also “continue to play an important role in our North American portfolio,” PepsiCo said Thursday.

Morgan said the company is “committed to a seamless transition and ensuring that our consumers and customers continue to receive the same exceptional products and service from us.”

Frito-Lay had previously consolidated Spitz’s operations at Bow Island after shutting its Medicine Hat distribution facility in 2016.

In an interview published Tuesday in Toronto’s Globe and Mail, Tom Droog said he believes the decision to shut the Bow Island site is in part to reduce shipping costs, as the bulk of the plant’s raw product came from Manitoba.

Furthermore, he said, PepsiCo wants to focus its efforts on the growing U.S. market, and he believes the Trump administration in the U.S. aims to push companies to shift more manufacturing and processing stateside.

The Globe also quoted Droog as saying he had hoped Frito-Lay was committed to Bow Island after it invested $2 million recently in upgrades at the plant.

Frito-Lay’s Spitz website on Tuesday still noted the company’s origins in Bow Island, stating the brand started “with a little company and a great idea about sunflower seeds with a difference.”

Spitz was one of the first companies in North America to make and market flavoured sunflower seeds, and also one of the first to market sunflower seeds in resealable bags, the company said. Spitz later also became one of the first North American companies to market flavoured pumpkin seeds.

“We hope you get out there and enjoy all our delicious flavours and taste the Spitz difference for yourself,” the company said on the Spitz site. “And when you do, think of the folks in Bow Island, who couldn’t be prouder.”

The closure is expected to affect 53 Spitz jobs at Bow Island. PepsiCo said Thursday it’s “committed to assisting our impacted associates with financial support, access to financial counselling and job placement services.” — Network

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