Ashland-based MaraNatha, one of the nation's largest natural nut butter manufacturers, is changing hands again. Hain Celestial, a natural and organic food and personal care products company based in Melville, N.Y., announced the acquisition last week.




MaraNatha began as a mom and pop operation in Ashland in 1982. Six years later nSpired Natural Foods, headquartered in California, purchased the company.




The plant currently employs 40 workers, and Mary Celeste Anthes, vice president for investor relations at Hain, said the company currently plans to keep and maintain the current employee base in Oregon.




The full MaraNatha line includes 25 different nut and seed butters, including almond, peanut, cashew and macadamia and produces about 10 million jars annually, according to Amy Rosen, a spokesperson with nSpired. The butters were distributed throughout the United States and Canada.




Rosen said the butters were made in small batches, just as the founders manufactured them from the beginning. She said the nut butters were also double ground, which brought out a more flavorful and creamy product.




Anthes said Hain plans to continue the existing manufacturing processes.




She said, "Having purchased the brands and facility less than a week ago, we're still evaluating the operations and over the next 30 to 40 days, we'll assess exactly how we move forward with MaraNatha operations."




Anthes said Hain plans to expand MaraNatha's sales and would certainly consider expanding the capacity at the Ashland facility.




Jeff Cundick, director of operations for the Ashland manufacturing plant, said, "I think this is an excellent move for us. It's still too early to tell, but there could be a possibility of our plant manufacturing some of Hain's other products. That would be good news for Ashland."




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