STANWOOD — A Canadian company will take over Stanwood’s former Twin City Foods processing plant to produce plant-based meat alternatives, five years after nearly 100 employees were laid off when the former frozen food plant closed.
The new tenants expect to bring about 150 new jobs to the town.
British Columbia-based manufacturer No Meat Company purchased the Stanwood plant for $19.4 million in February and expects to be operational by the end of 2023, said Sarah Cho, Stanwood’s economic development manager. The company was founded in 2019 and currently uses a 30,000-square-foot production facility in Coldstream, B.C., Cho said.
According to TechCrunch, No Meat manufactures meat alternatives for third-party customers, including whole-muscle cuts and processed “meats” like hamburgers and nuggets. The Stanwood plant will be its second processing facility and its first location in the United States.
The nearly 200,000-square-foot Stanwood facility was formerly a packaging hub for frozen vegetable processor Twin City Foods, which operated in the city starting in 1943. The company moved operations to a new plant near Pasco in 2018 to save on transportation costs, since the majority of its produce is grown in that region.
Twin City Foods announced the Stanwood plant’s closure in 2017, and its 92 employees were laid off during summer 2018. Sue Casteel, a human resources representative with the company, told The Daily Herald employees had been offered new jobs in Eastern Washington in lieu of layoffs, but that very few took them up on the offer.
“We have had just a handful who wanted to do that,” Casteel said. “Most of them wanted to stay here in Stanwood. Deep roots. It’s hard to pick up and leave when you’ve been here all of your life.”
The processor kept its corporate offices, employing less than 40 people, in Stanwood. Twin City Foods continued to use the facility for storage, and in 2020, Bellingham Cold Storage began leasing storage space at the former plant.
No Meat Factory’s move into the space is expected to create 150 new jobs by 2024, said Wendy Poischbeg, vice president of economic development with Economic Alliance Snohomish County. She said the alliance worked closely with No Meat to secure incentives for the new operation, including a $200,000 state grant towards site updates.
Poischbeg said Snohomish County’s food processing sector has seen steady growth since 2019, mostly in the form of seafood processors. The average annual wage among these producers in 2021 was $41,713, Poischbeg said, amounting to roughly $21 per hour. That’s just below the county’s living wage of $22.77 for one adult with no children, as calculated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Employees laid off by Twin City Foods in 2018 earned between $15 and $27 hourly, The Daily Herald reported at the time.
Cho said Stanwood locals likely won’t notice any big changes around the plant for several weeks, but will soon notice more buzz around the facility and more job listings, too. The city was closely involved in the process to bring No Meat to Stanwood, she said, in the hopes of revitalizing the vacant space and creating local, stable jobs.
“When Twin City Foods left the community, a 200,000 square foot facility was left behind. Finding an organization that would be able to utilize the entire space was very important to the City for economic development and job creation,” Cho said. “The Twin City Foods facility is an iconic building in Stanwood and we are very excited that No Meat Factory will be joining our community.”
No Meat Factory would be the county’s first plant-based proteins manufacturer. The nearest comparable producer is Field Roast in Seattle, a nationwide distributor of vegan cheese and meat alternatives.
The move to the new facility represents a big step in the company’s growth and expansion into the U.S. market. In a press release from the state Department of Commerce, No Meat co-founder and chief operating officer Leon Bell said the plant would allow the company to expand its deli and convenience lines.
Among the meatless offerings produced in Stanwood will be plant-based alternatives to ground beef and seafood, hot dogs and deli meats, the press release said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the location of No Meat Company’s production facility as Coldwater, B.C. The proper name of the district municipality is Coldstream.