Thika-based pineapple juice maker Del Monte will next month open a Sh500 million processing plant within its Thika plantation and expand production portfolio to other fruits.
Del Monte managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas said that the new facility in Kenol along the Thika-Murang’a highway is expected to create 200 new jobs and will start processing of avocados, mangoes and passion fruits.
The new facility will have a processing capacity of 60 tonnes of fresh fruits per year which will be sourced from Kiambu and neighbouring Murang’a County.
“Del Monte Kenya plans to source fruit from local and regional growers in Murang’a and Kiambu counties. We will prepare and package the products from the new Del Monte facility for both local and international markets,” said Mr Gkaliamoutsas.
Currently, the Thika road-based fruit processor has more than 6,500 employees and creates about 28,000 indirect jobs through the production and value addition chain.
The new facility comes as the food processor seeks to supply pineapples, mangoes and passion fruits to Coca-Cola for the production of a new range of health-conscious drinks launched last week.
Coca-Cola had said that fruits for the processing of the several juice brands of Minute Maid Nutridefenses and Powerade will be provided by Del Monte from contracted farmers across the two counties.
Del Monte’s product diversification is set to increase pressure on Kakuzi that recently announced plans to scale up its production of avocadoes through 600 additional hectares on its Kitale plantation.
Kakuzi announced last year that it will stop growing pineapples after more than two decades planting the crop to shift to the highly popular avocadoes amid skyrocketing global demand.
Others set to face stiff competition following Del Monte’s diversification into mango and passion fruits distribution include Kevian Kenya, the maker of Afia and Pick N’ Peel juice brands.
Del Monte started its fresh produce operations in the country in 2010 and has since gone on to become a household name.
It has, however, faced land wrangles in Murang'a as residents threatened to occupy the parcel owned by the firm on claims that the land is public.
The company had moved to court early this year, challenging the determination of the National Land Commission (NLC) directing the resurveying of the land.