The Wall's sausages and Mattessons manufacturer blamed adverse market conditions in the cooked meats sector, falling factory throughput and loss of sales for the closure, which follows a 90-day consultation period.
Production of cooked meats, the bulk of which are own-label ranges, is to be moved to Kerry Foods' site in Wicklow, Ireland. Meat snacks will be moved to its site in Attleborough, Norfolk and home baking to its site in Spalding, Lincolnshire.
George Cain, area organiser for the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW) told Foodmanufacture.co.uk that Kerry had started to withdraw production lines as the Durham factory was scaled down.
Relations between the trade union and Kerry Foods have been “as professional as possible under the circumstances” during the consultation period, he said.
USDAW has about 200 members at the site. He said: “There is always friction as we negotiate, but we have been able to agree on arrangements to help our members retrain and find other jobs. The human cost of this is very high, the factory is a big employer in the area and two or three generations of the same family may be working together there.”
He said that the site was set to become “just a derelict factory” following the exit of Kerry.
Cain explained that it was originally two buildings which were joined together by adding a roof. “The footprint is not oblong or square as a modern factory, there are lots of cubby holes. We do not know what will happen to the site; no-one has put in any requests for planning permission.”
Other Kerry Foods sites
Frank Hayes, communications director of Dublin-listed Kerry Group thanked employees and the union for their co-operation during the consultation period. He said: “We have not been able to secure the future of the site due to conditions in the marketplace. Many employees have been quite successful in finding alternative employment and a small number will be moving to other Kerry Foods sites.”
No further Kerry Foods plants in the UK were currently under threat he added.
However, Hayes indicated that there was likely to be consolidation in Kerry's global ingredients and flavours division, which has operations in the UK.
“We have grown through acquisition; consolidation has happened and may happen again. We need to retain efficiency and ensure the future of the business.”
Kerry's string of acquisitions in the sector include the £147M purchase of Cargill's global flavours business in December 2011.