Signature Brands Unveils New Popcorn Plant

Signature Brands LLC hosted a grand opening ceremony March 2 at its new 207,000-square-foot popcorn-popping production and distribution facility in Ocala, Fla.

The new facility represents a $15 million investment in Marion County and the city of Ocala. Signature Brands received economic incentive funds to assist with the project from the state, city and county by way of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp.

Founded 60 years ago in Ocala, Signature Brands has grown significantly, expanding its facilities three times during the past 15 years. When the Ocala facility is fully operational, the company will employ more than 400 year-round, with seasonal employment growing to more than 600.

In August 2008, the company acquired the popcorn producer, which manufactures and sells Popcorn Expressions, the world’s largest holiday popcorn producer, with both contemporary and traditional holiday tins filled with three flavors of air-popped popcorn: butter, cheese and caramel. Popcorn Expressions produces considerably more than 10 million holiday popcorn tins each year.

“Since the acquisition of Popcorn Expressions, we’ve begun producing decorative tins for other holidays, including Halloween and Easter, and we’re now introducing a smaller size for everyday snacking,” says Nando Zucchi, Signature Brands senior VP of marketing. “We are thrilled to expand our capacity through this new facility.”

The Hero Group, based in Lenzburg, Switzerland, purchased Signature Brands in 1987. “We are thrilled to continue to help drive the economy in Ocala and Marion County,” said Jim Schneider, president and CEO of Hero North America. “During our peak production periods, the plant will be running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, popping and packaging corn. At those times, we’ll have more than 250 employees in the facility, shipping between 100 and 150 truckloads daily.”

State Rep. Dennis Baxley remarked: “Signature Brands opening a new operation in our community does just what we need -- it creates job opportunities. It is my hope that this will be the first of many expansions to take place. We are working hard at the state level to make that happen.”

Ocala Mayor Randy Ewers said the seasonal products developed by Signature Brands “play a significant role in family life across America. Whether it’s dying Easter eggs with Paas products, carving Hallow¬een pumpkins with Pumpkin Masters, or their latest venture, popping popcorn with Popcorn Expressions, these products bring families together. They are great corporate citizens, and we look forward to their con¬tinued growth and success.”

Pete Tesch, president and CEO of the Ocala/Marion County Economic Development Corp., said his group’s partnership with Signature Brands is a “proven economic model that confirms public- and private-sector investments provide a valuable return for the community.”

Signature Brands LLC is America’s lead¬ing innovator of specialty and holiday deco¬rating products and accessories. Its brand portfolio includes Betty Crocker and Cake Mate dessert decorating products, Paas Easter egg colors, Pumpkin Masters pump¬kin-carving kits, and now Popcorn Expressions. Signature Brands is owned by the Hero Group, which was founded in 1886 and does business in 30 countries around the world today.

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