Amino acids producer Ajinomoto is once again expanding its research and manufacturing facility in Raleigh.
The Japanese company is investing $30 million to add another 26,000 square feet of production space at its nearly 30-acre campus on Poole Road. When the expansion is completed – the target date is 2019 – Ajinomoto’s footprint will encompass 206,000 square feet.
The latest expansion is the seventh since Ajinomoto began producing amino acids in Raleigh in 1982. Today the company has more than 200 employees locally.
Ajinomoto notes that the $2.1 billion U.S. amino acid market is projected to grow at a 9 percent annual clip through 2020.
“In order to keep up with that, we have to put in this expansion,” said Mike Lish, vice president of Ajinomoto North America and the top executive at the Raleigh site.
Amino acids, the chemical building blocks used by human cells to create proteins, can be found in intravenous fluids and nutrition products such as baby formula. They’re also used by pharmaceutical companies in the drug manufacturing process.
In addition, Ajinomoto also produces a brand-name product in Raleigh: Amino Vital, an energy drink.
Amino Vital debuted in Target stores in April and is available at 1,500 locations nationwide.
Sales of Amino Vital have been strong enough that the company doesn’t have to worry about Target pulling the product from its shelves, Lish said.
“It looks like we’ll be there for a long time,” he said.
In addition, he anticipates that Ajinomoto will soon be able to announce deals with a couple of retailers that would put Amino Vital in 300 more stores.
The expansion will increase Ajinomoto’s staffing needs. Lish expects the company will add more than 20 workers over the next two-and-a-half years.
The company plans to celebrate the expansion – and its 35th anniversary in Raleigh – at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.
Among the dignitaries scheduled to attend are former Gov. Jim Hunt, whose promotional trip to Japan in 1979 was key to attracting the company to Raleigh. Hunt also attended the original groundbreaking for the Raleigh plant.