Chelmsford: Era comes to an end as production ceases at Britvic drinks factory

The landmark Britvic clock tower on the company's site at Widford, Chelmsford. The landmark Britvic clock tower on the company's site at Widford, Chelmsford.

Friday, March 14, 2014
10:44 AM

An era will come to a close in Chelmsford today as production ceases at the Britvic soft drinks factory in Widford.

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Britvic, responsible for brands such as Robinsons, Tango and J2O, announced in May last year that it planned to close the Chelmsford factory, which produces soft drinks in cans, glass and plastic bottles, putting more than 200 jobs at risk.

It also said it was closing its Pennine Spring water factory in Huddersfield with the loss of a further 40 jobs as part of a reorganisation aimed at cutting costs by £30million a year.

The group said in November that the restructuring process was due to be largely completed by the second quarter of 2014, with the Chelmsford and Huddersfield sites due to close by this May.

Work from the two plants will transfer to other sites in the UK, Ireland and France, with Britvic’s other UK locations including major operations in London, Norwich and Leeds.

Production at the Chelmsford factory will end today, although a technical centre on the site will stay open until May.

A spokesman for Britvic said this afternoon: “The Britvic factory in Chelmsford has now closed, although the technical centre will remain operational until May.

“It has been our priority to minimise job losses and to support anyone who is affected by the closure as much as possible, in fact we have had success in matching external vacancies at other companies to our people.

“In addition, we are delighted that over 90 employees will be staying with the business and moving to jobs at other sites.

“While we are sad to be leaving Chelmsford, where the business started, the closure is happening to make our factory network more efficient and competitive and it will help protect the long-term future of our company.”

Britvic has an association with Chelmsford stretching back almost 150 years. The present factory was built in 1954 and until 2012 the group also had its head office the city. It is now based at Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire

In January, Brivic reported a “robust” start to its new financial year, with revenue growth across all its divisions during the first quarter.

It said it remained on course for full-year earnings in line with previous guidance, with the cost-cutting programme also on track.

Revenues in Great Britain were 1.5% ahead in the 12 weeks to December 22 − driven by retail price increases, with volumes slightly down − despite a tough comparative figure of 9.2% for the same period a year earlier.

In Ireland, revenues were 2.1% up on a comparable basis, although the reported sales figure was down due to fewer trading days as a result of a switch from monthly to weekly accounting to bring it into line with the GB division.

Overseas growth was even stronger, with revenues in France up 4.7% and those for its International division 5.6% ahead. Both figures were also underpinned by price rises, but with International sales also benefiting from volume growth.

Overall, revenues were 2.8% up at actual exchange rates, and 1.3% ahead when adjusted for currency changes, at £311.8m. Comparable group revenue excluding the impact of the accounting change in Ireland was 2.3% higher on a constant exchange rate basis.

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