PORTLAND – Barber Foods has been acquired by Ohio-based AdvancePierre Foods in a move expected to give the Portland company access to new markets and millions of dollars in capital investment.

However, Barber said it also plans to make “significant” layoffs after the company upgrades its plant and shifts a number of office jobs out of state.

“We bought (Barber Foods) because we think we can grow it. Over the long haul we want to continue to expand. I hope this will be a hugely productive brand for our company,” said AdvancePierre Foods CEO William Toler. Executives declined to discuss the purchase price, noting that both companies are privately held. Toler said the combined companies will have annual revenue of about $1.5 billion.

Barber President David Barber said Barber Foods will continue to operate the Portland plant.

“Our manufacturing facility will stay here. That was the big positive,” said Barber, adding that he and his sister, Vice President of National Account Sales Julie Barber, will remain on staff.

“It’s a great cultural fit that feels right,” Barber said of the deal.

Barber Foods, which employs about 650 people, primarily sells prepared chicken dinners to supermarkets and food retailers, club stores like Sam’s Club and institutions like hospitals, schools, hotels and the U.S. military.

Barber has earned recognition as a major employer for the immigrant community in Greater Portland, hosting language and citizenship programs for immigrants and refugees. It has also received honors for its contributions to local food banks.

Barber said he has no regrets about selling the family business — he said his father taught him, “If you find a great partner, go for it.”

He said AdvancePierre will invest “millions” of dollars in Barber Foods to upgrade, modernize and automate the Portland production plant.

During a week in July, the company will begin upgrading some production equipment, such as freezers and packaging and conveying equipment.

In September, Barber Foods will begin consolidating production on fewer production lines. Barber said one line will be permanently closed and capacity will be shifted to another, higher-speed line.

“The initial expansion will result in a reduction of work force. It will be significant,” he said.

Barber expects more layoffs in the next 12 months as some corporate positions at the company’s Milliken Street offices are transferred to Cincinnati or Oklahoma, where Advance- Pierre has operations.

Barber said he isn’t sure how many jobs will be cut. He said staffers who are laid off will be given a 60-day notice, severance pay and assistance in finding new jobs.

AdvancePierre, based in Cincinnati, has some 4,000 workers. It sells packaged sandwiches, cooked chicken and beef and other products, including shaved beef used in Philadelphia-style cheese steak sandwiches. The company’s customers include convenience stores, supermarkets, schools and other venders.

AdvancePierre’s large sales force and broad network of retailers and distributors are expected to help Barber Foods enter new markets in the U.S. and Canada, executives said.

“Our national footprint gives us a chance to take these great products and run them through a sales channel that Barber (Foods) never had the scale to do,” said Toler.

He said AdvancePierre will benefit by acquiring “a wonderful stuffed chicken breast product that is unique in the market,” as well as a greater presence in the Northeast.

Barber said he expects the acquisition will help Barber Foods lower operating costs and compete in a market increasingly dominated by large companies.

Barber Foods’ competitors include industry giants ConAgra Foods, Tyson Foods and Perdue.

“We saw our customers and competitors getting bigger and bigger, and the only way we can make this work is to join forces,” said Barber.

In a December interview, Barber said many retail supermarkets have been acquired by major corporations like Kroger and Supervalue in recent years. He said a lost client today seriously threatens the bottom line.

AdvancePierre Foods was formed in the 2010 merger of Pierre Foods, Advance Food Co. and Advance Brands.

Before the acquisition, the company operated 11 food plants, “sandwich assembly facilities” and bakeries in Oklahoma, Ohio, Iowa, South Carolina and North Carolina, according to the company’s website.

Barber Foods was founded in 1955 as Barber Beef by David Barber’s father, Augustus “Gus” Barber.

Former Barber Foods CEO Bruce Wagner told MaineBiz in 2009 that the company’s annual revenue was more than $100 million. David Barber declined to provide updated revenue numbers, saying the firm doesn’t disclose financial information.

Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or [email protected]