Steve Finn, regional officer, the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “I’d like to think there’s hope for the bakery, because that means jobs and an income for local people but that’s determined by Premier at the end of the day.”
After reviewing its supply chain, Premier Foods earmarked the bakery for closure in June 2012, with the loss of 82 jobs. Some of the employees have already left but the production line in Eastleigh, Hampshire is still running. The union says it could keep going until the end of the year.
Finn said: “The employers [Premier Foods] have not been very clever. They make a decision to close the site, then keep it open for a couple of weeks, then another couple of weeks, and now until Christmas. What’s made them make that decision I don’t know but it’s not very professional.”
A spokesman for Premier Foods told FoodManufacture.co.uk:
“The factory didn’t close in June due to fluctuations in capacity from other sites.”
The spokesman would not comment on whether the move indicated that the factory would remain open in 2013.
Finn said: “They haven’t told us anything.”
On announcing the job losses in February, a spokesman for Premier said Eastleigh had been selected for closure because it was: “Premier’s smallest bakery with one line of production. And it lacks the flexibility to meet the company’s future requirements.”
Power Brand plan
Hovis is one of Premier Foods’ Power Brands: core brands identified by the firm’s chief executive Michael Clarke as his key focus for sustaining the future of the company. They include Loyd Grossman sauces, Sharwood’s, Ambrosia, Bachelors, Mr Kipling, Bisto, Oxo and Hovis.
In an interview with FoodManufacture.co.uk last week, Clarke described the firm’s bakery, milling and logistics operations as “structurally complex” and said they would be targeted for efficiencies.
With regard to Hovis, he said the firm was set to announce plans to move the brand “beyond bread” to become a “health and wellness” umbrella brand.
In its interim management statement published last week (August 7), Premier said the bread market was improving in value terms, despite a volume decline of 1.8%.
Bakery sales were down 7.6% in the three-month period ended September 30, with Hovis “down 6.2% driven by intense competition”.
The statement said: “Hovis volumes declined 13.5% and margins suffered as a result of higher promotional activity, industry-wide pricing pressure and customer mix.”
To read more about Michael Clarke’s plans for Premier, click here .