Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Food Manufacturer Brings Economic Nutrition to Fairfield

Food Manufacturer Brings Economic Nutrition to Fairfield
By Nathan Halverson

Calbee foods has been described as the Frito-Lay of Japan. (Photo by Gary Goldsmith/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - A Japanese food manufacturer plans to relocate its North American operations to Fairfield, and that could bring as many as 160 jobs in the coming years.

Calbee, the manufacturer of the popular Snapea Crisps and other health-oriented snackfoods, will move both its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Fairfield.

The company currently operates out of Torrance, near Los Angeles. It manufactures products in Sebastopol.

The move to Fairfield, which should be completed by year end, is an effort by Calbee to expand its business in the North American market.

"We are planning on developing new products for the U.S. market," said Masanori Yasunaga, head of Calbee America, with the assistance of a translator. "We think the future in this new century is in smaller quantity, but better quality."

Calbee will initially employ 40 to 50 employees in its 40,000-square-foot facility. The facility, currently under construction, is on a 4.33-acre site at 2700 Maxwell Way in the Solano Business Park.

Yasunaga said about 15 employees will relocate to Fairfield and the rest will be new hires.

The company plans to add a 35,000-square-foot expansion to its facility in 2008 or 2009. After the expansion is complete, the company will employ about 160 workers, Yasunaga said.

To put that in perspective, Ball Corp.'s Fairfield facility, which employees about 180 employees, has a payroll of about $17 million - a healthy injection into the local economy.

Calbee is like the Frito-Lay of Japan. Its products are ubiquitous in Japanese grocery stores. Calbee's most well-known product in Japan is its Shrimp-flavored chips.

In Fairfield, Trader Joe's and Safeway carry its products.

The food company had sales of about $1 billion in 2005, and employs 1,241 people worldwide.

Calbee will also use its Fairfield location to design and test new products for its North American market.

"Calbee is bringing its oriental culture, and meeting the western culture here, and the two are fusing here," Yasunaga said. "This allows us to create unique food."

When completed, Calbee will open its facility up for public tours.

Reach Nathan Halverson at 425-4646 ext. 267 or

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