The parent company of the announced Thursday that its subsidiary Peabody operation is being sold to a global manufacturer of gelatin and collagen products and services, Rousselot.
Eastman Kodak says the move is part of an overall restructuring plan to sell “non-core assets” and focus on its digital products.
The plant at 227 Washington St. sprawls over 575,000 square feet of production space and employs around 100 people. Thursday’s announcement said 95 employees associated with the business would stay on at Eastman Gelatine after the sale closed in about 30 days.
Further details of the pending sale were not disclosed.
In recent years, as the market for gelatin photographic film has waned, the plant has been expanding sales into other markets that do have a high demand for gelatin, such as pharmaceutical, edible protein and food/confectionary industries. And Eastman Kodak says its subsidiary has been successful in that endeavor – the acquisition by Rousselot, part of the Vion Food Group, makes sense.
Rousselot primarily provides products and services to food, pharmaceutical and photographic industries.
Brad Kruchten, a senior vice president at Eastman Kodak, said in a statement that Eastman Gelatine is “well-positioned” in its industry and added that Rousselot can help continue that growth beyond the photographic market.
“Rousselot is an ideal acquirer of Eastman Gelatine because it is strategic to them and the company is committed to growing the business for the benefit of customers and employees,” Kruchten said. “I’m very pleased that we have such a favorable outcome for all of our constituents.”
Dirk Kloosterboer, the vice chairman of the Vion board, said he welcomed the acquisition of Eastman Gel to help strengthen Rousselot's position in both growing pharmaceutical markets and in North America.
"This acquisition contributes to our strategy of worldwide presence in gelatin and proximity to customers,” Kloosterboer said.
Eastman Gelatine still owns a vast amount of land in Peabody (around 400 acres), and has sold, leased for minimal sums or donated several key parcels in the past 30 years for municipal and civic projects, which Eastman characterizes as giving back to the community.
In 1967, the company leased land to the Peabody-Lynnfield YMCA for $1 so it could build a gymnasium and office, and then in 2002 donated four acres worth $1 million to make way for what’s now the at 252 Lynnfield St.
The company also contributed a plot of land in 1978 so the city could build a new across the street at 6 Allen’s Ln., and then in 1986, gave the city the property on the other side of the plant, where the sits, which has since become a museum.
When the city built the next to George Peabody’s birthplace, Eastman Gelatine also contributed several pieces of old tanning equipment it had kept in storage.
Eastman Gelatine initially leased land to the city in 1997 for the construction of and later sold the 40 acres around Sidney’s Pond to the city.
Glue and gelatine over the years
The gelatin producing plant has a storied history in Peabody, for many years employing a large segment of the local workforce along with the city’s tanneries.
The factory opened in 1817 as the Upton Glue Factory and didn’t actually produce its first gelatin product until 1908 after the American Glue Company acquired the business. It wasn’t until 1930 that Eastman Kodak purchased the plant after American Glue was liquidated and greatly expanded the size and scope of the gelatin operation over the years.
Until the photographic industry went digital, that is.