Dairy-Free Milk Giant SunOpta Opens $125 Million Production Facility

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Plant-based food and beverage manufacturer SunOpta has opened a new $125 million production facility in order to double its output.

Minneapolis-based SunOpta says its Midlothian, Tex., plant is now open, bringing 175 new jobs to the region. SunOpta has invested nearly $200 million into its production capacity over the last three years, with $125 million for this facility alone. The company says the new facility will allow it to double production by 2025 with a focus on plant-based milk and creamers.

“This plant is an important part of SunOpta’s long-term goals and a powerful next step in our company vision,” Joe Ennen, CEO of SunOpta, said in a statement.

SunOpta works as a co-packer for a number of brands including Costco’s Kirkland label, as well as offers its own-label product ranges including Sown, Dream, West Life, and Sunrise Growers.

Low-carbon production facility

“The fully-equipped and state-of-the-art facility will enhance our manufacturing and supply chain capabilities. In addition, through innovation and our dedication to sustainability, we can respond to the increasing nationwide demand for plant-based food and beverages,” Ennen said.

The new location supports SunOpta’s sustainability initiatives, the company says, with the Midlothian facility reducing carbon emissions through more efficient power use, water conservation, and the use of recycled materials in offices and labs.

SunOpta has opened a new sustainable factory | Courtesy

The strategic location will also see reduced emissions through lower transport needs. SunOpta says it will reduce more than 15 million freight miles annually, saving the equivalent of nearly 60 million pounds of CO2.

SunOpta anticipates water usage will drop by 20 million gallons per year, and its energy-efficient HVAC system will reduce energy use by 45 percent. The use of LED lighting and water heaters will drop power use by 95 percent.

The 285,000-square-foot facility will expand to 400,000 square feet as the company anticipates its future growth. At its full capacity, SunOpta says it will be the company’s largest plant-based food and beverage facility in operation.

Dairy-free leaders

Two years ago, SunOpta acquired legacy vegan milk brands Westsoy and Rice Dream for a combined $33 million, now rebranded as West Life and Dream.

The two brands are expected to play a vital role in SunOpta’s production expansion plans.

SunOpta has re-branded legacy dairy-free brands | Courtesy

West Life saw a 30 percent sales increase last month compared to the plant-based milk category’s three percent increase.

“Both of these brands have been around for decades and play different roles for different customers,” Mike Buick, SunOpta’s senior vice president and general manager of plant-based foods and beverages, told the Star Tribune earlier this month.

During an investor conference in January, Ennen called plant-based milk a “40-year overnight success story.”

“We have a lot of different ways to win in this business,” Ennen said in a nod to the company’s range of capabilities for ingredients and packaging.

“An investor one time said in a gold rush, you want to be selling picks and shovels,” Ennen said. “We represent that kind of picks-and-shovels model.”


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