GENEVA -- Nestle said Wednesday it had chosen key market Poland to lead a drive to expand its pet-food operations in central and eastern Europe, where rising incomes have had a major lifestyle impact.
The Swiss-based food giant said it was building a major new plant and distribution center in the southwestern city of Wroclaw.
Poland, and the Wroclaw area in particular, were chosen for their strategic position in Eastern Europe. With its estimated 13 million pets, Poland is the biggest pet food market in Central and Eastern Europe, Nestle said.
Nestle Purina PetCare division is to spend an estimated 93 million Swiss francs (US $98.4 million) on the new facility.
"The investment also supports Nestle Purina's long-term ambition to bolster its position in Europe," the group said.
Poland is already a magnet for investors who take advantage of its location between east and west, as well as to tap the domestic market in the nation of 38 million, which has managed to sustain economic growth during Europe's crisis.
Wroclaw, which lies near the borders with Germany and the Czech Republic, has proven a particular draw for companies from a range of sectors.
In Poland and other countries in the region -- even most of those which have slumped during the crisis -- incomes have grown steadily in the two decades since the fall of their communist regimes.
Although pet ownership was not unusual before the Iron Curtain came down, higher incomes and bigger homes for many residents of the region have had an impact, with larger breeds of dogs winning favor, for example.
Set to employ 200 people, Nestle's new site will be built in the southwestern Polish city of Wroclaw.
Construction is due to begin at the end of the year, with the aim of having the plant up and running in the second half of 2014.
Nestle, which is a top player in the global food industry for humans and animals alike, currently employs 5,100 people in Poland, 55 of whom work for Nestle Purina PetCare.
The group began operations in Poland in 1993, four years after the fall of the communist regime heralded a rapid shift to the free market, and currently operates nine plants there.
Based in Saint Louis, Nestle Purina PetCare has meanwhile been present in Poland for the past 16 years.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013