The plant, which is next door to Cadbury’s gum plant in Skarbimierz, Poland, will start making products formerly made at Cadbury’s plant in Keynsham, UK, “during the second quarter of this year”, corporate affairs boss Jonathan Horrell told FoodManufacture.co.uk.
The factory hit the headlines in February after Kraft reneged on a pledge to keep Keynsham open because Cadbury’s plans to close it and transfer production to Skarbimierz were so far advanced that it would be that “unrealistic to reverse them”.
The move enraged trade union bosses, who accused Kraft of betraying the 400 staff at Keynsham, who had been assured that their jobs were secure when the bid was launched.
Unions have also criticised the plans on environmental grounds as producing products in Poland for the UK market would “generate millions of unnecessary food miles”.
When grilled by a panel of MPs in March over its apparent u-turn, Kraft executive vice-president for corporate and legal affairs Marc Firestone insisted Kraft had made its original pledge in good faith as it did not have access to confidential information showing that the transfer of production to Poland had passed the point of no return.
Unusually, claimed Firestone, Cadbury had engaged in a costly process called ‘parallel running’, installing millions of pounds of equipment in Poland while still manufacturing in Keynsham.
This was “not a customary process”, he stressed: “Normally when companies switch over from one factory to another, they will build up stock in one and then open the other.”
By the time Kraft realised what was going on, claimed Firestone, Cadbury had already invested more than £100m in the site at Skarbimierz, with the majority of the money spent on bespoke kit for products such as Curly Wurly.
Skarbimierz not affected by sale of Polish and Romanian businesses
Neither of the plants at Skarbimierz would be affected by the proposed sale of Kraft’s Polish operations – a move required by the European Commission in order to address competition issues raised by its acquisition of Cadbury – said Horrell.
“Due to competition concerns, we are required to sell Cadbury's Wedel-branded chocolate and sugar confectionery operations in Poland and Cadbury's chocolate and soft cake operations in Romania.
“These are great businesses with strong brands and we would have liked to have kept them all. However, Kraft will retain the Cadbury plants in Skarbimierz.”