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F&S Produce announces purchase of Vineland Progresso plant

Anthony V. Coppola, @AVCoppola

VINELAND – F&S Produce of Rosenhayn made official Wednesday its purchase of the former Vineland Progresso Soup plant on West Elmer Road.

In August, Vineland Mayor Anthony Fanucci said his administration had been working for five months to find a suitor for the facility and that’s when F&S was identified. The Progresso plant closed its operation on Aug. 2 of this year.

F&S Produce said it plans to open the retrofitted 585,000-square-foot facility in the spring of 2018.

“Our new state-of-the-art production facility will allow continued growth within the fresh-cut produce space while enabling our company to expand its meal solution offerings that our customers increasingly seek,” FS President and CEO Sam Pipitone Jr. said. “As consumers focus on healthier, natural foods that are found around the perimeter of the supermarket, F&S Produce is here to provide them with the freshness, food safety, and convenience that
they demand.”

The July 2016 announcement that General Mills was closing its Vineland plant signaled the eventual loss of 370 jobs at the factory, one of Vineland’s largest private employers. Their work was shifted to a plant in Missouri.

F&S currently employs around 380 people. The move to Vineland is expected to create an additional 60 jobs initially.

“We have a skilled and dedicated workforce, and we are excited to continue to expand our operations within our community,” F&S Chief Financial Officer Lori Maddalena said.

According to F&S, operating at the former Progresso site will allow the company to increase “both its capacity and capabilities.”

Right now, F&S’ focus is fresh cut fruit and vegetable bowls and trays, salsas, ready-to-prepare meal sides and kits, individual and behind-the-glass deli salads and wraps. F&S also boasts a pepper and pickle brining operation, produces individually quick-frozen fruits and vegetables and makes purees that are used in soups, beverages, flavors and a variety of other applications.

“Our strength has always been the fruit and vegetable portion of the consumer’s plate,” F&S Chief Operating Officer Colin Turner said. “Cooking capabilities at our new facility will enable us to also fill the starch or grain and protein portions of the plate, providing fresh, healthy, and
delicious complete meals to our customers.”

Founded in 1981, F&S currently operates out of two Rosenhayn facilities totaling 125,000 square feet. F&S also owns and operates an in-house transportation fleet — Pipco Transportation — and Mid-Eastern Cold Storage, a 60,000-square-foot blast freezing and frozen storage space on North Orchard Road in Vineland.

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed, but in August F&S was approved for $21.8 million in tax credits over a 10-year span for the move to the Progresso site under the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s Grow NJ program.

“It’s been our pleasure to work with the entire F&S Produce team over the past few months, and we are thrilled to officially welcome them to Vineland,” Fanucci said. “In addition to their product line complementing our rich agricultural heritage, their investment in our community will
bring new employment opportunities for city residents, grow our tax base, and further strengthen Vineland’s position as a nationally recognized site for food production and processing operations to locate or expand.”

Anthony V. Coppola; (856) 563-5258;