Litehouse purchases Danville’s Sky Valley Foods

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The deal was a natural — and almost all-natural, to boot — the coming together of two food-processing companies that pride themselves on the goodness of their products.

In May, Idaho-based Litehouse Inc., the No. 1 refrigerated salad dressing brand in the country, made public its $46 million purchase of Danville-based Sky Valley Foods, which has been selling organic dressings, marinades, condiments and sauces since 2004. At the time of the announcement, Litehouse President Kelly Prior remarked on “the great synergies” between the two companies and the benefits of that mind meld are now expected to flow outward into the economy of the Pittsylvania County area.

Chris Blanford, director of consumer marketing and communications for Litehouse, says his employee-owned company will quadruple Sky Valley’s current workforce of 50 by adding 160 jobs in Danville, ranging from entry-level positions to management posts that will require operational and technical expertise. All openings, he says, will be listed on Litehouse’s website and through the local labor department.

“Our intention and desire is that most of these positions will be filled from the local Danville area,” Blanford says, adding that Litehouse will be offering on-the-job training for many positions.

Litehouse is planning a physical expansion, too. The company is already beginning engineering groundwork to expand Sky Valley’s 132,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Danville’s Airside Industrial Park, with construction expected to begin by year’s end.

First up, however, will be the integration of Litehouse and Sky Valley. Litehouse will continue producing its Sky Valley and Organicville lines under their current labeling, Blanford says, while simultaneously assessing trends to meet changing consumer demands. The plant also will begin to produce Litehouse refrigerated sauces and dressings, making Danville the company’s sixth manufacturing center in the country and the only one on the East Coast.

Sky Valley founder Rachel Kruse, a third-generation vegetarian, is staying on to help oversee her company’s original lines and to develop more of what she calls “better-for-you products.”

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