Mars Petcare expands capacity to handle Pedigree products

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Business is booming at the Mars Petcare facility west of Aurora, where the addition of another nationally-known product line has impacted operations on several fronts.
Known historically since its 1985 opening as one of the main producers of Iams pet food, the large plant on Highway 34 now makes Pedigree products as well.
“The Aurora facility is part of Mars Petcare’s North American network and specifically produces dry pet food,” reported Katie Evans, external affairs manager for Mars Pet Nutrition. “The team produces several iconic pet food brands, including Iams and Pedigree.”
The Aurora site produces approximately 200,000 tons of pet food per year, a number that continues to grow with the global demand for high quality pet food. In order to fill that demand, several truckloads of corn are delivered on site each day, all sourced from local suppliers.
“This facility is a strong part of the Iams brand’s history,” Evans said. “The addition of Pedigree to our production has been great for our facility. We’ve added new equipment and packaging lines, as well as hired additional associates, to ensure that we are efficiently producing high quality pet food for our consumers and their pets. We will continue to evaluate our needs based on the increased production volume.”
There are currently 150 Mars associates who work at the Aurora manufacturing plant, under the direction of site manager Pat Lesher. That number has increased due to increased capacity. The site is currently working on a 24/7 schedule, though plans are being made to transition back to a Monday-Friday schedule.
Though Mars is perhaps better known globally as a candy maker, the diverse company owns the Wrigley chewing gum line, among other products, and is a major player in the pet food industry. Headquartered in Brussels, Belgium, Mars Petcare is one of the world’s leading pet food providers, with 85,000 employees across 50 countries producing 40 different brands. Five of those brands are billion dollar sellers, including Iams, Pedigree, Whiskas, Royal Canin and Banfield.
Mars purchased the local plant in 2014 as part of a $2.9 billion transaction with Proctor & Gamble, and since that time has invested heavily in various improvements.
“Over $80 million has been invested in the facility, including updates to our facilities and offices, allowing us to expand our warehouse operations,” Evans explained. “We have recently kicked off a project to add capacity and increase throughput of product to market.”
The improvements include a new grinding tower on the north side of the property, as well as equipment for screening and coating the product, more automation and equipment needed for various safety initiatives.
“Our new grinding tower helps us to remain current with new technology, which ultimately enables us to produce high quality pet food,” she said. “It’s all part of fullfilling our purpose -- A better world for pets.”
Some of the facility improvements, Evans added, were implemented as part of a corporate mission referred to as the “Sustainable in a Generation Plan.” The goal, which according to the company’s website is formed by science and rooted in The Five Principals, is to eliminate any impact on the environment within a generation.
“At Mars Petcare, we are committed to our sustainability goals and our Aurora facility sends zero waste to the landfill,” Evans said.

Aurora plant history
Iams planted a stake in Hamilton County 35 years ago, when then-owner Clay Mathile chose the local site after a four-state search. Fifty criteria had to be met, but in the final analysis Mathile said at the time the community of Aurora was a major factor.
“A small group of local businessmen had a vision of what could happen in Aurora and they put together an outstanding package that made a difference,” former plant manager Kathy Brown said at the 20th anniversary celebration in 2005. “These five gentlemen were just incredibly key in working hard to share their vision and wooing Iams to make the decision to come here.”
That small group included Bud Pence, Phil Nelson, Gary Warren and the late Ken Wortman and Paul Kemling.
The Iams Company broke ground in 1984 and began operations with 27 employees, one mill tower and two packing lines. Growth has come consistently since that time, with additions in 1987, 1989, 1995 and 1997 adding capacity, production and at its peek up to 200 employees.
Mathile sold the company to P&G in 1999 and shortly thereafter the plant was converted to 7-day, 24-hour operations in order to handle increased production demands. Five years later, P&G purchased 20 acres to the west of the plant and constructed a $12 million, 225,000 sq. ft. distribution center, which has since been sited as a major factor in the plants ability to handle increased production.
Pet food that is manufactured at the Aurora facility is distributed across the United States and Canada.

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