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Litehouse expands eastward with food company purchase

Litehouse Inc. produces salad dressings, dips, cheese and other packaged products.
Courtesy of Litehouse Inc.

Litehouse Inc., a Sandpoint, Idaho-based maker of refrigerated salad dressings, dips, cheese, freeze-dried herbs and packaged goods, will invest $46 million to buy and expand Sky Valley Foods and establish its first East Coast production facility in Virginia, a transaction that comes with incentives, grants and loans.

According to Litehouse, Sky Valley Foods specializes in the production of organic shelf-stable dressings, condiments, marinades, sauces and sodas under the Organicville and Sky Valley brands.

Danville, Virginia, will become Litehouse’s first East Coast production facility and will help support its double-digit year-over-year growth. The deal, which was announced May 23, will close June 1, the company said.

In order to get more of its products onto grocers’ shelves, Litehouse plans to create 160 jobs over the next five years at its Virginia plant. In addition to retaining Sky Valley Foods’ 50 employees, its founder, Rachel Kruse, “will join the Litehouse team to help facilitate the strategy and direction of the Organicville and Sky Valley brands and products” throughout the U.S. and Canada, the company said in news release.

“For some time, Litehouse has been looking to offer (other) products that could be sold in the center aisles of the grocery store,” said Kelly Prior, president of Litehouse. “Before moving forward, we needed to ensure that the products we brought to market had the same high quality standards and reliance on real ingredients as our core Litehouse products.

“As we looked at Sky Valley Foods and their commitment to real food, real ingredients and better quality, we found great synergies,” said Prior about the purchase of the company, which includes a 132,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.

“Litehouse’s decision to take root in the City of Danville and establish its first East Coast production facility is another great example of how southern Virginia’s industry-responsive training programs and highly skilled workforce create an ideal environment for manufacturers to thrive,” said Gov. Ralph Northam in a prepared statement. “This flourishing company sets the bar for corporate responsibility in its industry, and we look forward to many years of shared prosperity for Litehouse, its dedicated owners-employees and the Commonwealth.”

Northam approved a $600,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to support Litehouse’s expansion. The Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission also has approved a $340,000 grant and a $220,000 loan for the expansion.

Additionally, Litehouse is eligible for state benefits from the Virginia Enterprise Zone Program, administered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as sales and use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment. Funding and services to support Litehouse employee training activities will be provided through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.

Litehouse started in the Hope, Idaho, restaurant of the Hawkins family over 50 years ago. The employee-owned company has five other manufacturing facilities in Michigan, Utah and Idaho.

Three years ago, Litehouse bought the 35,000-square-foot administration building on the former Coldwater Creek Campus on the north edge of Sandpoint.

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