SILOAM SPRINGS, ARK. — Simmons Pet Food, private-label and contract manufacturer of wet pet food, is continuing its multi-year capital investment plan to expand its presence in the wet pet food space by adding canning capacity to its Emporia, Kan., and Dubuque, Iowa, plants and opening a new pet food distribution facility in Edgerton, Kan. The company announced the new projects July 18, which are the latest in its three-year $500 million growth plan. Earlier in the year, the company shifted its focus solely to wet pet food as it completed its exit from the dry pet food and pet treats categories.
“We developed a new strategy as we went into 2021, and with that strategy, we had planned on, and are now fulfilling, a commitment to $500 million in capacity investments,” said Scott Salmon, president of Simmons Pet Food. “And by the middle of 2024, we will have met that goal.”
“We’ve done a series of investments that are significant that hopefully show our commitment to the communities, to our team, to the industry and, most importantly, to the pets we love,” Salmon added.
Leading the growth plan will be the addition of a fourth high-speed canning line at the company’s Emporia plant. The new line will have the capability to produce 60,000 lbs of wet pet food per hour — adding 23 million cases of 3-oz product and 5 million cases of 13-oz product by early 2024.
The company’s Emporia facility has been in operation since 1998, beginning with one line and employing 250 people. Today, the operation includes a Flex plant which produces pet food in pouches, cups and tubs, in addition to the canned pet food plant. The combined Emporia operation now employs more than 1,500 people.
In addition to the new fourth line, the company has made a $15 million investment in the Emporia plant to increase the speed of its 3-oz canning line by 50% by January 2023 and increase the speed of its cup packaging line in its Flex plant by 50% by May 2023.
“We believe in the accelerated growth of the market for wet pet food,” Salmon said. “As pet parents continue to look to humanize food, as they become more engaged in the feeding of their pets, they’re involving more wet pet food in the daily diets of their dogs and cats.”
More immediate expansion will take place within the next month as Simmons adds a second line to its Dubuque canning plant. The 275,000-square-foot facility opened in July 2021 following a $100 million investment by the company. Each line will have the capacity to produce 30,000 lbs of canned product per hour.
To better meet the demand for multi- and variety-packed pet food products, Simmons also plans to open a 750,000-square-foot distribution center in Edgerton, Kan. The center is set to open later this year.
“We are thrilled to establish a 750,000-square-foot distribution hub in nearby Edgerton, Kan.,” said Chad Morris, senior vice president of Supply Chain at Simmons. “Edgerton is an ideal location for new warehouse capacity and automated packaging operations to streamline the distribution of product to our customers throughout the US.”
The new Emporia and Edgerton projects represent a $115 million investment by Simmons and will create 177 jobs in the state of Kansas.
“Simmons’ decision to expand their already significant operations and hire 177 more Kansas workers is good for Emporia, Edgerton and the entire state,” said Kansas Governor Laura Kelly. “More and more businesses are choosing to grow here in Kansas — showing that our work to make Kansas the most pro-business state in the country is paying off.”
“Emporia and the state of Kansas have been excellent partners for Simmons,” Salmon said. “We are grateful for their support as we grow our business, provide opportunities for team members and carry out our vision to be the most trusted partner in the industry for food that nourishes and delights the pets we love.”