EAU CLAIRE — Nestlé is investing $50 million into expanding one of its factories in Eau Claire, which will bring 70 new jobs to the city, the global company announced Tuesday.
Work on the project at 1200 Nestle Ave. began earlier this year and will continue into next fall with new production lines starting up in January 2022, according to the company.
“With this investment, our Eau Claire factory will become our largest Nestlé Health Science manufacturing site,” Jean-Denis Fournier, vice president of technical and production for Nestlé Health Science USA, said in a statement.
Roughly 450 people currently work at the Nestlé Health Science plant on Nestle Avenue, and the company has already started to hire employees that will be needed for the expansion.
That division of Nestlé is focused on nutrition products used by health care institutions, patients and consumers. The Eau Claire plant’s current production lines include BOOST nutritional drinks, Gerber and Good Start baby formulas, and medical nutrition products under the names Peptamen and IMPACT. The expansion will add BOOST Kids Essentials and some Carnation Breakfast Essentials products to the plant’s output.
“Eau Claire is the only dedicated Nestlé Health Science facility within the United States, and had the competencies and capabilities to absorb these new production lines,” Fournier stated.
Products from the Eau Claire factory are critical for Nestlé Health Science’s business in the U.S., Fournier said, but also for other countries where it is seeing growth. Those export markets include Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Taiwan.
“This was already a fact before the COVID-19 pandemic, which only intensified our mission to empower healthier lives through nutrition,” Fournier said.
Aaron White, Eau Claire’s economic development administrator, said Nestlé representatives had told the city before that its manufacturing facilities here are a likely spot for expansion projects.
“They’d always indicated this was an area in strong contention for growth,” he said.
The size of Nestlé’s workforce in Eau Claire makes it one of the mid- to upper mid-sized employers in the area’s manufacturing sector. The technical level of skill required for jobs there also means the company offers good compensation packages to employees, White noted.
New jobs coming with the expansion project will range from positions in processing, packaging and filling production lines, to mechanics and engineers, stated a company news release.
The project also will revamp packaging to be more ecological and reduce waste.
One of those changes is eliminating plastic straws that currently come with a variety of dietary products sold for use by consumers and medical patients. That change alone will eliminate 125 million plastic straws annually at the Eau Claire plant. The plastic straws will be phased out by early 2022.
Nestlé also has plans to have the factory powered entirely by renewable electricity sources by 2025.
State Sen. Jeff Smith, D-town of Brunswick, said that he’s very pleased Nestlé recognizes what western Wisconsin has to offer and appreciates its commitment to creating more good-paying jobs in Eau Claire.
“This $50 million investment will go a long way to help us recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and provide greater stability at a time we need it most,” Smith said in a statement.
Nestlé also has another manufacturing facility at 5023 Venture Drive in Eau Claire and a warehouse on Preston Road.
The global company is headquartered in Switzerland, but has a large presence in American manufacturing. Nestlé’s U.S. operations include more than 200 locations in 34 states employing over 36,000 people, according to the company.