A Millsboro plant making Vlasic pickles will stop production around the end of the year, with more than 200
potentially left jobless, its owner, Pinnacle Foods, said Friday.
Pinnacle, headquartered in Parsippany, N.J., will consolidate its Vlasic operations with its plant in Imlay City, Mich. The announcement came after what the company called a competition for survival between the two plants, as officials in both states offeredfinancial incentives and unions at both sites weighed concessions sought by the company.
Pinnacle said there are 200 full-time employees at the Delaware location, including both union and nonunion, plus an unspecified number of seasonal workers. The union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 27, reported there were about 150 full-time, unionized workers, and sometimes about 250-300 seasonal workers.
“It is never an easy decision to close a plant. We came to this conclusion only after a detailed analysis of all potential options, which determined that the Imlay City plant is the most viable choice for the long term,” said Tony Fernandez, Pinnacle’s executive vice president and chief supply chain officer.
The decision included placing less of an emphasis on its unbranded pickle business, which delivered lower margins, the company reported.
The Millsboro plant had been open since 1972, opened by Vlasic. Through its many owners, it kept the brand name. The company was sold to Campbell’s Soup in 1979, said Ed Kee, Delaware’s agriculture secretary, who had worked with Vlasic when he was a vegetable crop specialist at the University of Delaware.
The plant went through a series of owners about 20 years later, ending about five years ago with Blackstone Group, which owns Pinnacle, which in turn owns the Vlasic brand.
Kee said Vlasic was originally attracted to Delaware because the soil on the Delmarva Peninsula was good for growing cucumbers and the saltiness of the brine matched the salt content of the Indian River, making discharging easier.
Kee said about 20 farmers in Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore grow cucumbers, primarily headed for the plant. A produce middleman company in Bridgeville, Kenny Bros. Produce, separates the cucumbers into grades and delivers most of them to the plant. Some are sent in refrigerated trucks to Michigan, Kee said.