HOMER – A company that made a $50-million investment in Banks County and created 80 new jobs has been forced to sell the facility, but county leaders say the change should not negatively impact the area.
Diana Food constructed its new 90,000-square-foot office, manufacturing and warehouse space on nearly 40 acres in the Banks Crossing Business Park, opening the facility in November 2018.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it is requiring Symrise AG, parent company of Diana Food, to divest its Diana Food chicken-based food ingredient manufacturing facility in Banks County in order for Symrise to proceed with its proposed $900-million acquisition of International Dehydrated Foods LLC (IDF) and American Dehydrated Foods LLC (ADF) from IDF Holdco Inc. and ADF Holdco Inc.
Kerry Inc., a global manufacturer of ingredients and recipe solutions for the food and beverage industry, is the purchaser of the Banks County facility.
“There has been no interruption in operations,” said Banks County Economic Developer Hannah Mullins. “They will continue to operate as Diana did, and they will pick up basically where Diana left off. There are no layoffs. It is my understanding that Kerry Inc. plans to take on Diana’s employees in the positions that they currently are in."
The divestiture ensures that the buyer of the Banks County facility will be well positioned to compete vigorously with the merged company in the manufacture and sale of chicken-based food ingredients in the United States, according to the Justice Department.
In anticipation of the federal action, the Development Authority of Banks County and Banks County Commission both voted in separate called meetings this week to approve the transfer of assets of Diana Food Inc. to Kerry Inc. and Kerry Luxembourg S.a.r.l., collectively the Kerry Entities, and the assumption of the Kerry Entities of the obligations of Diana under all agreements with Banks County, the Development Authority of Banks County and the City of Commerce.
That means all assets and the incentive package from Symrise/Diana Food have been transferred to Kerry Inc.
“I believe this is a very positive change,” Mullins said. “We’re going to miss Diana, but we are looking forward to working with Kerry in the future here in Banks County. From the research that we’ve done, they’re going to be good community partners and we’re very, very pleased with the fact that there will be no layoffs and no cease in service or operation.”
The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed Symrise merger with IDF and ADF. At the same time, the Division filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the Department’s competitive concerns.
“This structural solution ensures that American consumers will continue to benefit from vigorous competition for a critical input used in everyday consumer staples like chicken soup, chicken broth and pet food,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division in a statement Wednesday. “Today’s settlement fully preserves competition in the sale of chicken-based food ingredients.”
According to the complaint, without the divestiture, the combined company would control more than 75 percent of the domestic market for the manufacture and sale of chicken-based food ingredients.
Banks County officials spent 18 months competing for the Diana Food facility before then-Gov. Nathan Deal made the announcement in 2017 that the facility would be coming to Banks Crossing.