Known for its salad dressings, sauces and fruit dips, T. Marzetti Co. is proving to be the right recipe for a healthy Hart County economy.

The company, a subsidiary of Ohio-based Lancaster Colony Corp., revealed plans Monday to beef up the expansion of its Horse Cave plant it announced last year. It will add 192,000 square feet to the plant, nearly doubling its size, and employment is expected to swell by almost 50%.

The expansion of the plant on Top Quality Drive in the Hart County Industrial Park along U.S. 31-W was put on hold for a few months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but now the company is moving ahead with even bolder plans.

Marzetti, which already has about 500 employees at the plant it opened in 2006, now plans to boost employment by 220 jobs over 10 years instead of the 140 it announced in February 2020.

With a $133 million investment, up from the original price tag of $93 million, Marzetti plans to do more than simply add manufacturing space.

The company plans to purchase new equipment to increase dressing and sauce production, add eight new processing kitchens and create several packaging lines to meet growing customer demand. Work on the project has started and is expected to be completed by July 2022.

The expansion is fueled by growth in demand for Marzetti products coming from both the food service industry and the retail sector.

Lancaster Colony Vice President for Investor Relations Dale Ganobsik said the company has expanded beyond simply making sauces and dressings for such restaurant brands as Chick-fil-A, Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings and is now selling those products on the retail market.

“During the pandemic maybe people were wanting to get some sort of restaurant experience by buying restaurant sauces,” Ganobsik said Monday. “We need to expand capacity to meet the need.”

Horse Cave Mayor Randall Curry said the growth of Marzetti, the Lancaster Colony-owned Sister Schubert dinner roll manufacturing plant and the 1,600-employee Dart Container plant has helped the community rebound from the decline of the tobacco market that once fueled the local economy.

“Once we lost the tobacco market, we have been blessed to get these industries to locate here,” Curry said. “The Marzetti expansion will create 200 quality jobs. It’s going to have a huge impact on this area.”

It’s the second recent expansion of a Lancaster Colony plant in Horse Cave. The Sister Schubert plant expanded in 2019, adding 34,000 square feet and boosting employment to nearly 300 people.

“We definitely like the location,” Ganobsik said. “The people in Hart County have been good to work with. It just makes sense to expand there.”

Marzetti’s expansion was aided by state tax incentives.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority last year approved a 10-year incentive agreement with the company under the Kentucky Business Investment program.

The performance-based agreement can provide up to $2.75 million in tax incentives based on the company’s originally announced investment of $93 million and annual employment targets.

Additionally, KEDFA approved Marzetti for up to $250,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act. KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.