Mars is to spend US$145m to expand its pet food facility in Fort Smith in the US state of Arkansas.

The company said the move will create more than 120 new jobs.

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Mars, which owns pet food brands including Pedigree and Whiskas, said it is responding to increased demand for pet products seen during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The US giant said its research had shown more than 11 million households in the US welcomed a new pet this past year, which has contributed to growth in the wet pet food category. 

Expansion work at the facility will begin this month and is scheduled for completion next year. Mars will add more than 200,000 sq ft and two additional production lines, increasing production capacity by more than 40%.

Ikdeep Singh, regional president of Mars’s pet care business in North America, said: “The investment in our Fort Smith manufacturing facility enables us to continue to serve the ever-growing needs of pets and pet parents and represents our commitment to our associates and this community.”  

The Fort Smith facility opened in 2009 and Mars said it has invested more than $420m in the site to date. It added further expansion is planned for the future. 

Mars also revealed in "early 2021" it will be announcing new products in the wet food category, including Sheba Bistro cat food, a line of new "chef-inspired entrees" and new offerings from the Cesar brand.

There are 14 Mars pet care sites in the US.

Earlier this month, it was reported that Mars is planning to invest in pet-food manufacturing in China.