Branston firm to invest in East Anglia

BRANSTON pickle-to-Oxo stock cubes group Premier Foods is to close six factories with the loss of around 1,000 jobs - but the move is likely to see increased employment at two of its sites in East Anglia.

BRANSTON pickle-to-Oxo stock cubes group Premier Foods is to close six factories with the loss of around 1,000 jobs - but the move is likely to see increased employment at two of its sites in East Anglia.

Premier announced the closures yesterday after completing a review of manufacturing operations which it launched following its £1.2billion acquisition in March of RHM, owner of brands such as Mr Kipling cakes and Bisto gravy.

The company said overlap had been identified between 11 sites, of which six would close while the five others would undergo “significant” investment.

Among the sites earmarked for expansion is Bury St Edmunds to which production of chutneys, pastes and cooking sauces will be transferred, with the creation of 16 new jobs.


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This will bring Premier's total employment in Bury to nearly 380, with the new products being manufactured alongside brands already produced at the site such as Branston pickle, Loyd Grossman sauces and Haywards pickled onions.

There will also be new investment at Premier's preserves and spreads production site at Histon, near Cambridge, together with factories at Worksop in Nottinghamshire, Knighton in Staffordshire and Ashford in Kent.

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The factories due to close, mostly from the RHM estate, are at Middlewich in Cheshire (which has a workforce of 290), Droylsden, near Manchester (260), Ledbury, Herefordshire (180), Reading (130), Wythenshaw, also near Manchester (111), and Bristol (48).

The sites are due to close by early 2009 and Premier said it expected the net reduction in job numbers to be around 580, once expansion at the five other sites was taken into account.

“Our priority continues to be growing our business and our brands,” said Premier chief executive Robert Schofield.

“We are proposing this restructure to deliver optimum use of available space and equipment and to provide our business with considerable cost savings which can be used to support our great portfolio of brands.”

He added: “We appreciate the impact this will have on employees at those sites and will work with them to explore opportunities for redeployment within the group or outside of the company.”

The acquisition of RHM, following on from that of the UK arm of Campbell's Soup in a £460million deal last year, made Premier the UK's largest food supplier, ahead of the likes of Mars, Nestlé and Northern Foods.

It operates from more than 60 different sites - the rest of which are unaffected by yesterday's announcement - and employs a total of around 20,000 people, with its other major brands including Hovis, Sharwoods, Ambrosia, Hartley's and Quorn.

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