Dr. Oetker Canada, a manufacturer of frozen pizza and desserts, as well as dry baked goods ingredients for both retail and foodservice markets, officially opened the company’s new frozen pizza production facility in London, Ontario, on May 21. The plant, which has been in operation since mid-March and employs 74 workers, is expected to hire 46 more people by the end of the year.
“Canada is an excellent market for us,” said Dr. Christian von Twickel, executive vice president at Dr. Oetker Canada. “Canadians are particularly receptive to our type of innovative and high-quality products, and we are excited to have opened our first North American frozen pizza plant. We are confident in the local workforce, the Ontario agri-food sector and the North American market.”
The London facility focuses on production of the company’s pizza lines, including Ristorante, a thin-crust gourmet pizza; Casa di Mama, an Italian homemade-style pizza; and Panebello, a bakery crust pizza. Over time, the facility is expected to produce up to 50 million frozen pizzas per year for the Canadian and US markets, and will source millions of pounds of raw ingredients from Ontario farmers and food processors.
The $100 million factory benefited from $19 million in grants received from federal and provincial governments. Dr. Oetker, meanwhile, will spend another $35 million to build a warehouse distribution center that will supply customers throughout North America.
The investment has been applauded by government officials and workers alike, as Ontario has experienced losses of many food industry jobs in recent years. The list of plant closures includes the names of a number of blue chip companies, among them H.J. Heinz, Kellogg and Quality Meat Packers. Furthermore, just a few weeks ago, Unilever Canada Inc. announced that it would cease production at a soup and sauce factory in Brampton, which will make 280 people redundant.
The problem is pretty much national in scope, according to a study published by the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School and the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute. It reports that more than 143 Canadian food processing factories have shut down since 2006. There has apparently not been a net decline in employment, however, as in many cases old factories have been replaced by larger, modern facilities.
Quebec seems to be pretty adept at attracting food industry investment from French companies, as Bonduelle, Danone and Fleury Michon have set up production units in that province.
As far as Dr. Oetker Executive Vice Von Twickel is concerned, London, Ontario, is the ideal place to be.
“As a fourth generation family-run and family-owned business, our company thinks in generations, not months – so we want to feel at home wherever we put down roots,” he stated. “We have an unwavering commitment to building a sustainable presence in the communities where we put down our feet. This was crucial for finding the right location in North America.”
Dr. Oetker Canada has been in operation since the early 1960s, initially doing business under the Condima Imports, Inc. banner. It ranks as one of the top five subsidiaries of the Bielefeld, Germany-headquartered Oetker Group, which operates in over 39 countries and employs more than 26,000 people. Established in 1891 with the launch of Germany’s first baking powder, in 2013 the company rang up sales of $3 billion.
The Canadian arm includes manufacturing and R&D facilities in Mississauga as well as in London, Ontario, that produce over 190 products. The company has enjoyed strong growth, with its business having more than doubled in size over the last ten years as it has become number two in Canada’s overall frozen pizza meal market. It is estimated that nearly one-third of all frozen pizzas sold in Canada are Dr. Oetker products.