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Sofina to buy former Maple Leaf pork plant

The owners of the former Maple Leaf Foods pork processing plant at Burlington, Ont. have signed a deal to sell the business to another Ontario meat packer.

Sofina Foods, based at Markham, Ont. with 11 meat processing facilities across Canada, on Tuesday announced it will buy the Fearmans Pork plant and its related business from its U.S. owner Sun Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum.

"This acquisition provides Sofina with secure access to high-quality raw materials that will allow us to grow our fresh meat markets and build and sustain our further-processed protein business," Sofina CEO Michael Latifi said in the company’s release.

Sun Capital bought the Burlington facility — the single largest pork plant in the province — and the Fearmans trademark from Maple Leaf in late 2010, then re-established the plant as a stand-alone business under the plant’s former name.

The brand dates back to F.W. Fearman’s ham and smoked meat business, which the Fearman family began in Hamilton in 1852. The nearby Burlington plant, now considered the oldest continuously operating pork plant in the country, opened in 1962; expansions in 1975 and 1980 nearly tripled its size to its current 365,000 square feet.

The Burlington plant lasted with Maple Leaf until 2010, when it was sold as part of the Toronto company’s reorganization of its meat business.

Fearmans, as set up by Florida-based Sun Capital, now bills itself as sourcing hogs through a "network of over 700 small Ontario farms."

"Management has effectively created an infrastructure and stabilized hog procurement, which assures the region’s hog farmers that they have a committed and capable partner," Sun Capital co-CEO Marc Leder said in Tuesday’s release. "Sofina Foods is a natural steward for the next stage of (Fearmans’) growth."

Privately-held Sofina has grown largely through acquisitions in recent years such as Vancouver’s Fletcher’s Fine Foods in 2004 and Edmonton-based Lilydale in 2010. Sofina’s operations now include 11 meat plants in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. plus a Fletcher’s bacon and sausage plant at Auburn, Wash.

In March this year alone, Sofina signed deals to buy two Ontario companies, chicken and seafood processor Janes Family Foods and deli meat packer Santa Maria Foods.

Sofina also produces private-label meats for retailers and markets its own wares under the Fletcher’s, Lilydale, Vienna, Cuddy and Quality Meats brands.

Related stories:
Maple Leaf’s Burlington pork plant for sale, July 22, 2008
Sofina to buy Lilydale in meats merger, Feb. 18, 2010
Maple Leaf’s Burlington plant back up on block, May 25, 2010
U.S. firm to buy Maple Leaf’s Burlington pork plant, Nov. 9, 2010

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