Unilever invests $152.5 million in New Century plant, creates 100 new jobs

James Dornbrook
Reporter-Kansas City Business Journal

Unilever announced that it would invest $152.5 million and create 100 jobs at its plant in New Century, Kan.

The plant operates 24 hours a day, five days a week producing spreads such as Country Crock, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Imperial and Promise. The plant, at 27080 W. 159th St., employs 168 people. It produces an average of about 1.3 million tubs of spread a day.

The investment includes spending about $45 million to expand the plant by about 50 percent to nearly 500,000 square feet. The company will spend the remainder of the investment on upgrades to its manufacturing equipment.

“The investment and expansion of our New Century spreads facility is a significant milestone in the history of Unilever US and is in line with our strategy of investing back for growth in America,” Unilever North America President Kees Kruythoff said in a release. “By creating a world-class manufacturing facility, we are further investing in our core food brands, and we’re excited about the growth this will enable.”

Unilever acquired the facility from Kent Foods in 1984.

Tom Riederer, president of the Southwest Johnson County Economic Development Corp., said the expansion will have a tremendous effect.

“Unilever’s expanded presence will be a significant addition to the growing business community of southwest Johnson County,” Riederer said in a release.

The expansion in New Century comes on the heels of an announcement by Unilever that it would sell the Wish-Bone salad dressing brand to Pinnacle Foods for $580 million. The dressings have been made in Independence, Mo., since 1961. The Independence facility has 190 employees, who will continue producing Wish-Bone for the next 18-24 months under a third-party manufacturing agreement. Then Pinnacle Foods will take over production, and Unilever will either have to find a new product for the plant or lay off the employees.