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Moon Ridge Foods temporarily closes plant, restructures

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After posting $70 million in sales during its first 12 months in operation, Moon Ridge Foods LLC temporarily closed its Pleasant Hope plant as it restructures in an effort to cross the $100 million mark, CEO Russ Kremer said.

Kremer said 240 employees’ jobs were temporarily displaced, though he expects to have the vast majority back on board within a few weeks. The 110,000-square-foot pork processing plant opened Oct. 1, 2016. Declining to estimate full 2017 sales, Kremer said Moon Ridge is considering bringing on a financial partner as it moves to higher quality meats.

“We always look for strategic partners, including financial partners that have had the same vision,” he said, noting Moon Ridge does not plan to sell. “We’ve got a company in mind that might be a good fit.”

Moon Ridge sells products under its own brand, and also sends some meat to other processors, who sell it under their own branding. With the restructuring, Kremer said Moon Ridge would largely focus on its own branded products.

About 15 people currently are working at the plant cleaning, reorganizing and selling its current inventory. Moon Ridge on Jan. 11 filed a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice with the state.

“It is anticipated that this will be temporary, and the entire facility will not be operating during this time,” the WARN notice reads. “Greater notice was not possible due to economic circumstances.”

The plant currently is not processing meat, which is why the employees were temporarily let go, Kremer said.

“We had accumulated some inventory of what I’d call more commodity or generic-type products,” he said. “Because we want to shift more toward adding value to our product, we’re getting rid of that inventory.”

Kremer said Moon Ridge is shifting its focus to the upscale Japanese market, where customers ask for chilled pork products with a long shelf life, as well as top Italian products in the United States, including antibiotic-free prosciutto and fine salamis.

“We had to start with the basic markets to get our crew trained,” he said. “It takes nearly a year to train a person how to be an artisan meat cutter.”

Kremer said the switch to finer meats relates to the size of Moon Ridge’s 5305 Highway H plant and its ability to process 1,500-2,000 head per day, compared with larger plants’ ability to produce as much as 30,000 per day.

“We can’t compete with that speed and volume, so it’s all about being highly differentiated,” he said.

Moon Ridge Foods made a splash in 2016 when it announced plans to create 160 new jobs and invest $54 million in the plant over a two-year period. The plant was formerly owned and operated by a firm called Tai Shin.


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