French's ketchup expansion shows Leamington turning around, mayor says

Thursday, June 2, 2016

By Alex Brockman, CBC News

'Great news for everyone,' John Paterson says

French's decision to bring new product lines to Highbury Canco has made Leamington officials even more optimistic about rebounding economically after the Heinz plant closure in 2014.

Plans for French's to launch two new products were made public Thursday, when the company told CBC News it will use a Toronto company to bottle all of its ketchup bound for Canadian retail stores.

"This has got to make a lot more people feel a lot comfortable with [Leamington]," the town's Mayor John Paterson said. "We've been making a big turnaround in different areas of industry, tourism and the like but seeing our tomato industry get back on its feet after such a short period of time is great news for everyone."

Tomato jobs

Paterson estimates Highbury Canco employs about 450 people — slightly more than half the figure that used to work for Heinz. But he expects the expansion and related spin-off jobs growing and processing tomatoes for the plant to begin closing that gap.

"We will never escape the 'Tomato Capital of Canada' title, and we'd never try," Paterson said. "Tomatoes will always be our history and knowing French's is expanding down here … I see their addition to Highbury Canco as really positive."

Highbury Canco's President and CEO Sam Diab said the company will bring in at least 10 to 15 new jobs, as a result of French's decision and there's still room for growth.

News of French's Canadian expansion spread quickly Thursday. Rob Basile, an advocate for Canadian-made ketchup applauded the move, saying this is a good day for Canadian manufacturing.  

"This tells us Canadian consumers can have a positive impact on decisions made at the corporate level and this is a small example of how it can happen." Basile said. "I'm really proud of Canadians, I'm proud of French's and I'm really excited about the future of businesses doing business in Canada."