UPDATE: Layoffs likely after Ohio company acquires Portland's Barber Foods

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PORTLAND — Barber Foods, which has called Portland its home for more than 50 years, has been acquired by a Cincinnati-based company.

AdvancePierre Foods announced Wednesday it will continue to operate the Portland company’s production facility on St. John Street.

Barber Foods President David Barber said AdvancePierre Foods plans on investing “more than a few million dollars” into the Portland plant.

But that investment will result in the automation of some production, which means there will be a series of layoffs over the next year or so, Barber said.

Also, Barber said administration will eventually be merged with AdvancePierre Foods’ management, resulting in more job losses.

“Unfortunately, this will result in some job loss over time,” Barber said. He said he did not know exactly how many jobs would ultimately be lost.

The first round of layoffs at Barber, which employs about 650 people, will likely occur in September, he said. Workers who lose their jobs will be given 60 days notice, a severance package and offered a re-education opportunity.

The acquisition is expected to significantly increase AdvancePierre’s retail business along the East Coast and in Canada, while maintaining the Barber Foods brand and local operations.

Bill Toler, AdvancePierre Foods chief executive officer, said in a written statement that the acquisition is part of the company’s strategy of buying high-quality companies that compliment AdvanceFoods’s mission.

“The high-quality products, top-notch manufacturing facility and family values of Barber Foods makes it an excellent addition to AdvancePierre,” Toler said. “We are very enthusiastic about what Barber brings to our existing and future retail, food service and convenience business, as well as opportunities to expand our presence through their East Coast location.”

Barber Foods was started in 1955 by Gus Barber, who began with a butcher’s knife and a pick-up truck, according to the company website. The company now operates a 150,000-square-foot plant.

Although the founder passed away in 2008, the company has remained in the Barber family; Barber’s four children serve as owners and trustees.

Barber said he and his sister, Julie, will remain with the company.

U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, who has worked with Barber on federal issues, said she was pleased the company was able to keep its production facility in Portland.

“The Barber family has been an important part of Portland for 56 years and we are grateful for their commitment to the community,” Pingree said. “I’m hopeful that the new owners will recognize that Barber Foods in Portland produces quality products and has a dedicated workforce and invests in both the facility and the people who work there.”

Barber said the deal would allow the company to remain competitive against bigger companies formed through consolidations.

“As the food industry continues to consolidate and bigger players emerge, it was the right time for Barber Foods to join forces with a growing industry leader like AdvancePierre,” he said.

Barber Foods, whose brand is carried in retail grocery stores, wholesale clubs and by food-service industries, produces more than 300 frozen raw and fully cooked foods, featuring a variety of stuffed chicken breasts.

The company also manufactures an assortment of other frozen chicken products, including chicken nuggets, chicken fingers and chicken fillets.

AdvancePierre Foods was formed in October 2010, in the merger of Pierre Foods, Advance Food Co. and Advance Brands. The company produces a line of packaged sandwiches, fully cooked chicken and beef, Philly-style steak, breaded beef, pork and baked goods.

Barber said AdvancePierre Foods was formed through the merger of two other family-owned businesses, and is committed his company’s mission.

“Our products are a terrific complement to (AdvancePierre’s) existing line,” Barber said. “And we share similar philosophies about our priorities of food safety, quality, service and productivity leading to growth. It’s a great fit.”

Barber said the privately held companies would not release financial details of the transaction. 

While operations over the next year will change, Barber said one thing will remain the same.

“We’re making chicken today, and we will be making chicken tomorrow,” he said.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

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