Kraft insists Somerdale transfer is ‘still on track’

By Ben Bouckley and Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Chocolate

Kraft insists Somerdale transfer is ‘still on track’
Kraft has rejected claims made by the Unite trade union that it is behind schedule with the transfer of operations from its Somerdale factory to its new chocolate factory in Skarbimierz, Poland.

Its comments follow claims made by Unite regional industrial organiser Steve Preddy that Kraft had wanted to stop all operations at Somerdale before the end of this year, but problems with logistics and production at the Polish end of the operation meant closure had been deferred until mid-2011 or possibly later.

A Kraft spokesman said: “Firstly, we are still on schedule to end production at Somerdale by the end of this year​. There will almost certainly be some skeleton staff on-site after production has ceased - overseeing machine security and removal - but talk of a "stay of execution" is incorrect.

"Steve Preddy also referred to Cadbury Creme Egg and its fondant. We have never made Creme Egg at Somerdale. It follows, therefore, that there can be no problem with the water affecting fondant.

“We also do not know what he means by 'milk supply' problems in Poland. It would appear that, because he's removed from actual operations on site, he has misunderstood comments made from his members.”

However, Preddy insisted that the transfer was behind schedule. He told FoodManufacture.co.uk: “There is a private and confidential email in circulation admitting transfer difficulties. I wish members could provide more detail, but they are restricted by covenance arrangements that could affect redundancy packages.​"

Parallel running

The plant, which is next door to Cadbury's gum plant in Skarbimierz, Poland, 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.

Unusually, claimed Kraft executive vice-president for corporate and legal affairs Marc Firestone, Cadbury had engaged in a costly process called ‘parallel running’, installing millions of pounds of equipment in Poland while still manufacturing in Keynsham.

By the time Kraft realised what was going on, he claimed, 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.

Related topics: Confectionery

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