The convenience food manufacturer issued staff with letters informing them of the start of a 90-day consultation process and the intention to close the factory and move production to its facility in Bradford.
Symington’s underwent a management buyout in early June 2012. It acquired the cake and baking mix manufacturer later the same month for an undisclosed sum.
At the time of the acquisition, David Salkeld, ceo at Symington’s, said: “The Victoria Foods acquisition is a positive step forward in strengthening our position in the home baking category and we welcome Dan Ross [Victoria Foods’ ceo] to the team at Symington’s.”
Julian Wild, food group director at legal firm Rollits, told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “Symington’s has got more than sufficient capacity at its other operations and its main site in Leeds and doesn’t need more factories. It wanted the volume and the business but didn’t need the factory.”
‘Grown men cry’
Local press have reported “grown men crying” at the family-run firm, which is one of Leigh’s biggest employers.
Leigh MP Andy Burnham has called an urgent meeting with Symington’s. He vowed to fight for the best redundancy package for Victoria Foods’ workers and to retain the site for food manufacturing jobs.
In a statement to FoodManufacture.co.uk Symington’s said: “Symington’s can confirm that, on July 16, it announced the intention to launch a 90-day employee consultation process regarding a proposal to potentially discontinue activities at Victoria Foods in Leigh, and establish a single, efficient, effective, low-cost production centre at the Low Moor facility in Bradford.”
Victoria Foods produces cake and baking mixes, including mixes for desserts and beverages. Its portfolio ranges from own-label brands, creations featuring favourite children’s characters and mixes in association with leading brands, including Jane Asher, Nestlé and Weightwatchers.
When it was acquired by Symington’s, md Dan Ross said: “Victoria Foods has performed consistently since its inception 30 years ago and we are looking forward to helping grow the business under the Symington’s name to further develop the home baking category as a whole.”
Symington’s said: “The priority is now the people who are potentially affected by this proposal and we will not be making further comment on this matter until the consultation process has been completed. We will be offering as much support as possible to our employees during this time.”
Wild said: “If they [Symington’s] can absorb the business they will do so. That’s where you get the synergies from: absorbing volume into existing facilities. Take that volume and its current profitability then eliminate the existing workforce and you end up making twice as much money.”