Maidstone Canner Goes International

Thomas' Canning owner Bill Thomas, left, and Festrut Companies president Dr. Festus Asihkia sign a $25-million sales agreement. (Photo by Kevin Black)

Thomas’ Canning of Maidstone will soon have its Utopia brand tomato products for sale on store shelves in Nigeria.

A $25-million yearly sales agreement with Festrut Companies of Nigeria will see the African company lead sales on the continent . Thomas’ Canning owner Bill Thomas says the company will triple the amount of tomatoes they currently process. “Our goal at the completion of the project is 3,000 additional acres. If anything there going to be a ramping up. It doesn’t start tomorrow, there needs to be a ramping up.” They expect to contract with roughly 20 growers across Essex County and Chatham-Kent, but those negotiations haven’t begun.

Festrut President Dr. Festus Asihkia expects to easily surpass $25-million in yearly sales. “Meeting that is not an issue. The issue is if Canada can meet up with what we want. We have the market, we have the consumers and we have people who love your product.”

A previously announced planned expansion at Thomas’ Canning will also go ahead this fall, with an additional 40 jobs created. The Utopia tomatoes will show up on Nigerian shelves May 23, but full production won’t begin until later this year.