OGDEN — American Nutrition‘s plant in Ogden, which serves as headquarters for the pet food company, was the big lure for C.J. Foods.

It’s well-known “for being a high-quality, high food-safety plant,” David McLain, the chief executive officer of C.J. Foods, said Tuesday.

Now, the two cat and dog food makers will be joining forces, creating what McLain said will be the biggest manufacturer of pet food in the country that doesn’t market its own brands, that creates products for other name-brand pet food companies. C.J. Foods, based in Bern, Kansas, has reached accord with American Nutrition to acquire the Ogden-based company, based at 2813 Wall Ave. McLain said efforts are moving forward to rebrand the combined firm pending completion of the transaction, probably in April. Together, the merged company will be able to produce one billion pounds of food per year for the U.S. and international markets.

“C.J. Foods and (American Nutrition) are two world-class manufacturers with complementary capabilities that make the combination a win for our customers,” Bill Behnken, the American Nutrition CEO, said in a statement. “It truly enhances our ability to provide higher levels of innovation to meet the ever-evolving opportunities in premium pet nutrition.”

Aside from Ogden, American Nutrition, launched in 1972 and has plants in Woodland, Washington, and Hazleton, Pennsylvania, according to its website. But the facility here, McLain said in a phone interview, will be “the linchpin” for future production. C.J. Foods, founded in 1985, produces dry pet food while the Ogden facility can manufacture that as well as baked treats and wet food in cans and plastic trays.

American Nutrition treats

The undated photo shows pet treats being produced at the American Nutrition facility in Ogden. American Nutrition is to be acquired by another pet food company, Bern, Kansas-based C.J. Foods, the firms announced Monday, Feb. 17, 2020.

Around 250 people work at the Ogden plant, and McLain foresees expanding production of canned pet food products, potentially creating new jobs.

As contract manufacturers, American Nutrition and C.J. Foods make pet food for other companies that market the product in packages with those firms’ labels. “Believe me, if you have a cat or dog, there’s a high likelihood you have had our products,” McLain said.

The Ogden American Nutrition facility sits in a series of buildings off Wall Avenue, north of 29th Street. To some, it’s known for the dog food smell it emits that can waft around the city, depending on the direction of the wind. McLain, in response, said the manufacturer wants to have good relations with the community.

“It is important to us that we are a good neighbor. We’ll constantly be looking at ways to improve that over time,” he said.

McLain and Behnken will serve on the merged firm’s board of directors. C.J. Foods is owned by J.H. Whitney Capital Partners, a New Canaan, Connecticut-based private equity firm.

Contact reporter Tim Vandenack at tvandenack@standard.net, follow him on Twitter at @timvandenack or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/timvandenackreporter.

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