Freshpet to create 427 jobs in Ennis with new pet food manufacturing plant

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Texas is offering up a $2.1 million grant to aid the company’s investment.

New Jersey-based Freshpet Inc. will build a new pet food manufacturing facility in Ennis that’s expected to create 427 jobs, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s office announced Wednesday.

The pet food company plans to invest $264 million in the plant. The state is awarding Freshpet a $2.1 million grant from its Texas Enterprise Fund, which is used to close economic development deals bringing new business investment.

Freshpet describes itself as a disrupter in the $30 billion North American pet food industry, similar to how Netflix changed movie rentals or Apple influenced the entirety of the tech world. The company makes steam-cooked, natural pet foods that don’t use preservatives or additives. Its products are sold in refrigerated display cases in stores such as Kroger, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods and Petco.

“Our third Freshpet Kitchen is in the perfect location to help us drive new innovation while making our food in a way that’s best for pets, people and the planet," Freshpet CEO Billy Cyr said in a statement. " We wanted the home of our next Kitchen to be a place that we would be proud to send our employees to live and work and Ennis blew us away with the compelling vision of their leadership, the ongoing investments they have made to their infrastructure, and the availability of top-notch talent to support our growth.”

The Ennis project – dubbed "Kitchens 3.0″ – will be built in two phases, according to Freshpet. Phase one is expected to be completed by 2022 and will be roughly 400,000 square feet. It will include all the infrastructure for the site. Phase two is expected to add an additional 200,000 square feet of manufacturing and is slated to be complete by 2025.

Ennis, about 35 miles southeast of downtown Dallas, is a growing community of 20,000 residents in Ellis County. According to the city’s 2019 economic development report, Ennis attracted 11 industrial projects that created 334 jobs and $67.5 million in investment.

Freshpet chose Ennis for the facility because of the available talent in the region, convenient nearby access to fresh poultry, strong local infrastructure and the site’s access to major roadways, according to the company.

Abbott said he’s excited to see the impact Freshpet’s "incredible investment will have in the Ennis community.”

“The Lone Star State continues to attract companies like Freshpet for a reason — our economic model maximizes opportunity and minimizes stifling regulations, allowing businesses and our workforce to thrive,” he said.

Freshpet’s sales topped $245 million last year, a 27% increase from the previous year, according to Freshpet’s fourth quarter financial filings. It had refrigerated display cases in 21,500 stores at the end of 2019. The company’s annual report said it sees an opportunity to add at least 30,000 more stores across North America.