Former Heinz plant ends 1st tomato season under Highbury Canco

The first tomato harvest under Highbury Canco in Leamington has ended and been deemed a success by managers and farmers alike.
Highbury’s plant manager Sam Diab says the company plans expansion in the next four months. (Dale Molnar/CBC News)

The first tomato harvest under Highbury Canco in Leamington has ended and been deemed a success by managers and farmers alike.

The Canadian company bought the 105-year-old Heinz plant earlier this year after the ketchup giant pulled up stakes in Leamington.

The tomato processing plant quietly changed hands at the end of June.

Approximately 250 workers were hired by Highbury, but several hundred more former Heinz employees are still out of a job.

Heinz announced in November 2013 that the plant would close. Highbury Canco eventually stepped in to pack product under the Heinz label.

Highbury’s president and co-owner Sam Diab said it was a good first year.

The plant wrapped canning tomato juice Wednesday and is about to start canning and packing beans, cereals, baby food and more over winter.

Diab told CBC News the company is hoping to expand to processing other types of pastas in about four months.

He said Heinz is happy with the current product.

Tomato farmer Wayne Palichuk is happy too. He said Highbury treated him well, paying him $120 a ton, up from $113 last year.

Highbury processed 40,000 tons of tomatoes from 10 local tomato growers. More than 40 used to grow for Heinz.

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