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Phillips expands manufacturing in Maryland with soup line

Workers make and package soup in Phillips Foods' newest manufacturing facility, near its Halethorpe headquarters. The seafood brand plans to develop new products and launch lines of fresh soup and other products to sell to retailers, club stores and food-service companies in the Mid-Atlantic.
Workers make and package soup in Phillips Foods' newest manufacturing facility, near its Halethorpe headquarters. The seafood brand plans to develop new products and launch lines of fresh soup and other products to sell to retailers, club stores and food-service companies in the Mid-Atlantic.

Phillips Foods Inc., the family-owned operator of Phillips Seafood Restaurants, plans to expand its fresh food offerings to Mid-Atlantic grocers, club stores and food-service companies with the help of a new manufacturing facility in Halethorpe.

Phillips is increasing production at a new 15,000-square-foot facility in a Baltimore County business park, where it plans to make and launch a line of fresh soups, experiment with production of other seafood and meat products for commercial customers, and test ideas in a research and development center.

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“It’s another chapter in the Phillips family history,” Phillips CEO Stephen B. Phillips said Thursday as he and other family members marked the new facility’s opening at an event attended by Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz.

The family business started in 1914 when Phillips’ grandfather opened a crab processing plant that’s still in operation on Hoopers Island in Dorchester County. It expanded in 1956 when his parents opened the first restaurant in Ocean City and further expanded in 1989 with crab processing plants in Southeast Asia.

“The new space is really about innovation and creativity, and coming up with products that really appeal to the market today,” Phillips said in an interview Thursday.

Besides the fresh soups, the company will look into producing nonseafood, chicken, beef or pork, with a variety of flavor profiles, he said.

“It seems like the market today is much more interested in exploring exotic flavors, and we’re trying to capitalize on that type of market today," Phillips said.

The Halethorpe plant, the company’s first new facility in Maryland since it closed a production plant in Locust Point in 2014, is in the same business park as its sales and marketing offices. Plans call for adding 15 to 20 workers in the shorter term and as many as 100 people as the business ramps up.

Production will start with the frozen soups and other products currently being made by outside facilities for Phillips, such as crab pretzels, shrimp and grits, and crab and spinach dip.

Besides crab and oyster processing plants on Hoopers Island and Deal Island in Somerset County, the company has six plants in Southeast Asia.

“Here we’re going to try to focus on things we cannot do in Asia,” said Brice Phillips, director of sustainability and sales to club stores and a fourth generation member of the business.

That will include making products and shipping them out quickly to stores and other customers in an area from Richmond, Virginia to Boston, using seafood processed at its Maryland plants.

To help with its expansion, Phillips plans to tap into the state’s More Jobs for Marylanders program, an initiative of Gov. Larry Hogan that promotes manufacturing growth by offering tax incentives for job creation.

“Our administration remains committed to growing the manufacturing sector throughout the state, and with the support of companies like Phillips, we will continue to demonstrate how businesses can thrive right here in Maryland," Hogan said in an announcement Thursday.

Besides running restaurants in Baltimore, Ocean City, Atlantic City, N.J., and Washington, Phillips sells its products in casinos and airports throughout the East Coast.

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