Capital Press

Southern Idaho will be home to two more large food companies in the near future.

Frulact Group, a Portugal-based fruit-preparation company, announced Wednesday that it will open its first U.S. plant in Rupert, and Clif Bar, a California maker of energy bars, announced Thursday its intentions to build a 300,000-square-foot bakery in Twin Falls.

“What an exciting week!” said Jan Rogers, executive director of Southern Idaho Economic Development Organization (SIEDO).

The two new companies bring the total of ag-related companies that have held grand openings or announced the construction of new facilities in southern Idaho to seven since November 2012, she said.

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter said he has been “wearing out” his airplane flying to the Magic Valley cutting ribbons and digging holes for new business openings and groundbreakings.

“You folks have dazzled an awful lot of capital investment here, and Clif Bar is the icing on the cake,” he said at Clif Bar’s announcement of its plans at Twin Falls City Park.

Otter noted some of the other companies that have located or expanded in southern Idaho, including Frulact, Chobani, Glanbia and McCain, saying the Magic Valley is truly magical.

That magic is a product of teamwork by local governments, urban renewal agencies and economic development organizations, he said.

When a company with the quality and culture of Clif Bar chooses to locate in Idaho, it sets other companies wondering there’s got to be a reason it would come to Idaho and the Magic Valley, he said.

Clif Bar founder and co-owner Gary Erickson said Chobani’s decision to locate in southern Idaho was very interesting to him and wife and co-owner, Kit Crawford. The fact that a dynamic, growing company like Chobani came to southern Idaho made them think twice, he said.

They considered other appealing locations but decided on Twin Falls because of its warm and welcoming tight-knit community, its sustainability values and its beautiful outdoors, Erickson said.

What really cinched the deal is that Twin Falls is a place they could live, Crawford said.

Twin Falls has been in discussions with Clif Bar all summer, and the partnership now realized is a hand-in glove relationship. The company’s aspirations of sustainability are a good fit with the city’s vision of sustainability, said Twin Falls City Manager Travis Rothweiler.

The Clif Bar owners have purchased 90 acres south of the Chobani plant to build their bakery and plan to break ground in 2015 and begin operations in 2016 with 250 employees. That number has the potential to grow to 450 employees, Erickson said.

The initial investment is expected to be about $90 million, with a potential total capital investment of $160 million. The company will also realize financial incentives in the millions in the form of property and infrastructure improvements, state grants and workforce development.

The privately owned company, based in Emeryville, Calif., works with facilities in the U.S. and Canada making energy bars and sports drinks, but the Twin Falls bakery will be the first it owns.

A day earlier, Frulact announced its plans to break ground on a 200,000-square-foot fruit preparation plant this year, hiring about 100 workers when it starts operations during the fourth quarter of 2014, with more jobs added as growth warrants, said Kelly Anthon, Rupert city administrator.

“We couldn’t be more happy. It’s really, really a good fit for Rupert,” he said.

That fit includes Rupert’s excess wastewater capacity, an available work force, the community’s agricultural base and its environmentally friendly and neighbor-friendly atmosphere, he said.

With processing plants in Portugal, France, Morocco and South Africa, the company produces fruit-based preparations for food labels in the dairy, ice cream, pastry and beverage markets throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Anthon said to his understanding, Frulact already has an established client base in the region and expects to grow that base. The company’s executives and board of directors indicate they are confident about their ability to sell products in the U.S. and are looking to grow that market, he said.

“The city of Rupert is superbly located for the Frulact facility and therefore is ideal to serve our key customers throughout the United States,” Frulact’s CEO and co-founder Joao Miranda said in a press release. “We look forward to operating in Rupert and getting established in the U.S. production and distribution market.”

The company chose to locate in Rupert because of its sense of community and its guarantee that construction can start immediately, he said.

Anthon and Rogers both visited Frulact’s facility in Portugal and said they were impressed with the operation, the plant design, the management and the employees.

The facility was high tech, environmentally friendly and clean with no odors, Anthon said.

“They’re a first-rate company. They’re a rock star over there (Europe),” Rogers said.

Frulact first vetted southern Idaho in April, while also considering locating in Utah, Nevada and Wyoming. Like most recruitments, the process involved several site visits and negotiations. Rupert stepped up and competed head-to-head, Rogers said.

The company and the city have not yet signed a development agreement, so Frulact’s final investment is not yet known.

The development agreement should be finalized in the next few weeks, Anthon said.

The state of Idaho, SIEDO and Rupert are committed to helping Frulact in its efforts to locate in the area, and the company will realize million of dollars in incentives to locate in Rupert, he said.

Those incentives include state grants for infrastructure, and lower taxes, lower utility rates and lower land costs than competing states, he said.

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