Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Colgate-Palmolive, Leavenworth County, City of Tonganoxie, and other industry and elected officials for the grand opening of a new, fully designed smart facility in Tonganoxie. Hill’s Pet Nutrition, a division of Colgate-Palmolive and a global leader in science-led nutrition, estimates it will invest more than $450 million to construct the new facility and bring more than 100 new jobs to Leavenworth County.
Company officials say the new plant marks a “step change” in strategic automation and technological advancements in the pet food industry. It will significantly increase the company’s wet production capacity and provide a runway for continued expansion of Hill’s Science Diet and Prescription Diet product lines.
“This investment by Hill’s Pet Nutrition is a testament to my administration’s success in creating a pro-business economy, including for the animal health industry,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I’m delighted our unique Animal Health Corridor continues to expand, growing our economy and supporting communities like Tonganoxie.
The new facility features advanced digital monitoring of pet food-making processes and end-to-end and AI-driven vigilance over food quality and safety protocols. The plant will deploy autonomous mobile robots, enabling employees to focus on “value-added” tasks rather than shuttling ingredients and related materials around the 365,000-square-foot facility, which sits on more than 80 acres in Tonganoxie.
“It’s only appropriate that as we celebrate Hill’s anniversary, we are able to unveil the next chapter of smart manufacturing innovation in the pet food industry,” President and CEO of Hill’s Pet Nutrition John Hazlin said. “The Hill’s Tonganoxie plant helps set the stage for continued growth, increased capacity, and the ability to better serve the evolving needs of pets and pet owners from around the world.”
The new facility design will improve speed to market by shortening the production cycle, while also offering long-term flexibility to innovate new formats and products that help deliver on the company’s mission to support the health and well-being of pets.
The new Hill’s plant currently employs 100 people, who were factored into the design of the plant and its production processes.
“Kansas is committed to supporting the creation of high-tech, high-wage jobs such as these for hard-working Kansans and their families,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “The innovation Hill’s is deploying here underscores our state’s growing prowess in advanced manufacturing and the economy of the future.”
Among the more than 170 varieties of wet pet food the plant will make is the recently relaunched Hill’s Prescription Diet k/d, the world-renowned original science-based nutritional solution for renal (kidney disease) care, pioneered by Hill’s Founder Dr. Mark Morris Sr. in 1948.
To ensure food safety and quality to Hill’s exacting standards, the plant is using artificial intelligence to power a digital food safety vigilance system. It will work alongside Hill’s staff and a new state-of-the-art Mission Control Center that “provides us with unprecedented visibility and monitoring through every aspect of pet food making, from ingredient intake to final packaging,” said Chad Sharp, Director of Manufacturing for the Tonganoxie plant.
Sharp said the production process is an entirely enclosed system from ingredient mixing to cooking and container filling – preventing food exposure to the atmosphere.
Working in close partnership with the Kansas Department of Commerce, the Leavenworth County Development Corporation, the City of Tonganoxie, Evergy, and Kansas Gas Service, Hill’s chose the site for its excellent location; access to a talented and diverse pool of workers; a strong and welcoming community; and proximity to distributors and suppliers.
For more information, visit hillspet.com.
About the Kansas Department of Commerce
As the state’s lead economic development agency, the Kansas Department of Commerce strives to empower individuals, businesses and communities to achieve prosperity in Kansas. Commerce accomplishes its mission by developing relationships with corporations, site location consultants and stakeholders in Kansas, the nation and world. Our strong partnerships allow us to help create an environment for existing Kansas businesses to grow and foster an innovative, competitive landscape for new businesses. Through Commerce’s project successes, Kansas was awarded Area Development Magazine’s prestigious Gold Shovel award in 2021, 2022 and 2023, and was awarded the 2021 and 2022 Governor’s Cup by Site Selection Magazine.