In a statement, the company – part of Brakes Group, which supplies foodservice outlets – said: “Following an extensive review of our food manufacturing business and in the context of a long-term decline in the wholesale frozen ready meals product category, we have identified that Creative Foods, in Flint, North Wales, may no longer be a viable business.
“There is a proposal to close the Creative Foods factory and we have started a full and thorough consultation process, which we anticipate will reach a conclusion in May 2014. We will continue to make every effort to support our colleagues affected by the proposal, during this unsettling time.”
The firm has begun a 45-day consultation period with employees. Welsh Assembly member Sandy Mewies has contacted Flintshire County Council to find ways to support affected workers.
“I have spoken to the company to seek clarification of the reasons why they are proposing to close the factory in May and to see if there is any possibility of reviewing the decision," she said, adding that she had approached the Welsh economy minister Edwina Hart about the issue.
“The company have told me they are looking at options including the possibility of a buyer ... The loss of these jobs will be a huge blow to the town and to the surrounding area and I have spoken to the minister urgently and asked her to do what she can to help the workforce.”
Creative Foods operates two plants, one at Aber Industrial Estate in Flint, which makes frozen ready meals, sauces, soups and pasta dishes, and a desserts facility at Torquay in Devon.
Outsource production at Torquay
A year ago, Brakes put 90 jobs at risk when it decided to outsource much of its production at Torquay to Greencore’s Devon-based Ministry of Cakes subsidiary.
At the time, Julian Wild, partner and food sector specialist at law firm Rollits, said he believed the move was the result of a conscious shift by Brakes away from food processing.
Speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk today (April 2), he said the latest situation at Creative Foods was more evidence of the same strategy.
Vertical integration ‘makes no sense’
“I have to say I am totally convinced there is no merit at all in major retailers and foodservice players having an integrated supply chain whereby they are manufacturing their own products,” said Wild. “I’m sure Brakes has come to the conclusion that it makes no sense.”
The same applied to the vertical integration approach taken by Morrisons, he added.
Plenty of independent food manufacturers existed that had more experience and were better equipped to do the job, he said. “There’s so much capacity in the industry that retailers and foodservice players like Brakes simply don’t need to make their own products.”
If Brakes did close the Flint plant, it would be most likely to outsource production to other nearby manufacturers, said Wild.