Sleeman investing to bring back production from U.S.

Canada’s third-biggest national brewer plans upgrades at its southwestern Ontario plant, with which it plans to bring back some production it now contracts out to a U.S. brewery.

Guelph-based Sleeman Breweries, owned since 2006 by Japanese brewer Sapporo, announced Monday it will invest $6.61 million to expand packaging capability, put up new beer tanks and upgrade equipment at its main brewery.

The upgrades, according to the Ontario government, will allow Sleeman to brew and package beer it now has produced by a contractor in the U.S., as well as to introduce “innovative can packaging technology” and produce 710-ml aluminum cans of certain brands for the Canadian market.

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The upgrades “will support our capacity to create jobs as well as drive exports and innovation on our brands,” Sleeman chairman John Sleeman said Monday in a provincial release.

The project is expected to be completed by December 2020, creating 15 new jobs at the Guelph brewery, the province said. According to Sleeman, the Guelph brewery today employs about 220 people producing 127.5 million litres of beer per year under 25 brands.

The province announced Monday it would put up $422,000 for the upgrades from its Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, which helps back companies’ investments toward job-creating expansions in sectors including advanced manufacturing, food processing and life sciences among others.

Sleeman’s operations also include breweries at Chambly, Que. and Vernon, B.C., producing Canadian brands such as Sleeman, Okanagan Spring, Upper Canada and Unibroue along with international brands such as Sapporo, Old Milwaukee and Pabst Blue Ribbon under license for the Canadian market.

According to the Guelph Mercury newspaper on Monday, Sleeman’s Pabst line is now produced by a U.S. contractor and shipped to Canada for sale, and the expansion will allow Sleeman to produce that brand in 710-ml cans at Guelph instead.

The Mercury quoted Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal as saying the upgrades will allow the company to repatriate 100,000 hectolitres (10 million litres) of production now handled in the U.S.

The expansion at Guelph follows a major expansion in Vernon in 2015 at the company’s Okanagan Spring brewery, which Sleeman has owned since 1996. — AGCanada.com Network

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