Morinaga plans could be ‘substantially’ larger

Sep. 16, 2013 @ 05:02 PM

There could be more jobs and a larger facility in store for Orange County depending on the growth of Morinaga & Co. Ltd’s soft-candy Hi-Chew, the chief executive of the company’s U.S. subsidiary said in an email.

The company announced earlier this month plans to invest $48 million in a new, 120,000-square-foot plant near Mebane and to create 90 jobs across three years.
The company’s footprint could be “substantially higher as we go forward,” said Steve Brantley, Orange County economic development director, at a briefing in Chapel Hill recently.
“The site is large enough to accommodate their plans, and also gives them flexibility for anything in the future,” Brantley said. “So we have good reason to have some confidence in that long-term growth, although it’s certainly not committed to by the company at this time.”
Masao Hoshino, CEO of Morinaga America Inc., said in an email that there’s a “possibility” that the company will hire more than 90 and that it will build an extension to the planned manufacturing plant, but that depends on several factors.
That’s if the growth of Hi-Chew, a soft fruit candy that the company plans to make at the plant in Orange County, is larger than anticipated, and if a decision is made to launch other products in the United States.
“Let us emphasize that we hope to do so in order to contribute to the community,” Hoshino said.
Currently, Morinaga America only sells Hi-Chew in the United States, Hoshino said. It’s been five years since its launch in the country.
The company started its business on the West Coast, he said, and established an East Coast sales office last year.
The product is sold in convenience stores, individual stores, and in club stores such as Costco. Hoshino said the company is not yet distributing across the entire country, but he said there’s “high acceptance” from consumers where it’s available.
Today, he said, candy sold in the United States is made in and exported from Asia. The business has grown, and he said the company foresees a capacity shortage.
The company is looking to add local production to meet growing demand. Hoshino said the company chose the location in Orange County because of good inland transport, access to raw materials and an “excellent business environment overall.” The plant is expected to be operational by mid-2015.