Gerber Products Co. will spend $65 million to bring thermoforming operations to its Arkansas plant, continuing a conversion toward feeding babies from plastic jars.
The company will add a production line featuring new aseptic technology to the Fort Smith, Ark., plant, Fort Smith General Manager Karen Flatley said in a news release. The facility, opened in 1964, is one of Gerber's largest U.S. plants making both processed baby foods and their glass containers. It employs more than 600.
The company could take as long as two years to install the new equipment, said Flatley, who was traveling and unavailable for comment. About 160 employees eventually will shift to the plastics operation, she added.
The company received economic incentives from a combination of state and local sources.
``It's been a very productive site for them,'' said Andy Mayberry, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Economic Development in Little Rock, Ark. ``And they're already successful in putting baby food in glass containers.''
Gerber started making plastic containers for its infant and toddler foods last year in Fremont, Mich., said company spokeswoman Jessie Ristic. The containers have been well-received by consumers who like their portability, convenience and safety features, said Ristic, based at Gerber's headquarters in Parsippany, N.J.
The expansion will not create new jobs in Fort Smith, but will help the company maintain its current work-force levels, Ristic said. The facility makes a variety of infant and toddler foods, including meats, meat sticks and both organic and dry cereal.