Chelmsford: Hundreds of jobs at threat as Britvic announces closure of Essex factory

The clock tower at Britvic's Chelmsford plant

The clock tower at Britvic's Chelmsford plant

Fruit drinks manufacturer Britvic has announced it is to close its factory in Chelmsford - a move that could lead to more than 200 job losses.

The announcement has come as shock to the people of the town, which has an association with the company stretching back almost 150 years.

Britvic, which produces the J2O and Fruit Shoot brands, said it had made the decision as part of a reorganisation aimed at cutting its number of manufacturing bases.

The firm is also shutting its Pennine Spring water factory in Huddersfield with 40 job losses and closing a warehouse in Belfast employing 20 staff under the plans to merge its UK and Irish operations - which will result in 300-400 job losses overall.

Britvic last year moved its headquarters from Chelmsford to Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire and said remaining office staff will transfer to its new site. It has started a consultation with staff and said the sites will close in the first quarter of next year.

The current Chelmsford factory was built in 1954 and makes soft drinks in cans, glass and plastic bottles. Work will transfer from there to other sites in the UK, Ireland and France. It also has major operations in east London, Norwich and Leeds.

Supply chain director at Britvic, Clive Hooper, said: “The decision to close two of our production facilities was clearly a difficult one to take. However, these proposed changes are needed to make us more efficient and competitive, so that we can protect the long-term future of our business.

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“Throughout the next couple of months, we will be consulting with our Chelmsford-based employees. If the closures go ahead, it is our intention to minimise job losses, and we will support affected employees as much as needed.

“We have a good track record of employees already moving from Chelmsford to our new head office in Hemel Hempstead, and we hope that many of our office based employees will now make the move.”

Chelmsford MP Simon Burns said: “This is a devastating blow for Chelmsford and has come as a bolt out of the blue.”