Nestlé cited a significant downward trend in demand for infant nutrition products in the Greater China region as the main driver behind the factory closure, thanks to a sharp decline in the birth rate projected in 2023 – 9 million down from 18 million in 2016, according to Statista.
The market, which had previously been reliant on imported infant formula products, is also seeing rapid growth in locally-produced products, according to the manufacturer.
To adapt to these changes, Nestlé planned to transfer the production from Askeaton to two existing factories – Suzhou, Mainland China and Konolfingen, Switzerland – while R&D work would be absorbed into Wyeth and Nestlé Nutrition’s global R&D centre of excellence for infant and maternal products, also in Konolfingen.
Originally acquired from Pfizer nutrition in 2012, Wyeth Nutritionals Ireland Ltd (WNIL) manufactures infant formula products exclusively for export to markets in Greater China and Asia. The factory currently employs 491 people., while the R&D facility employs 51 people.
“These proposals have been carefully considered and are no reflection on the excellent contribution made by our employees in Askeaton over many years,” said a Nestlé spokesman.
No buyer found yet
“To date, we have not been able to find a buyer. Therefore, we will commence a meaningful consultation process with our employees on a proposed closure. In parallel, during this consultation we remain open to approaches from a credible buyer.
“We regret the uncertainty this announcement will cause our colleagues and their families, and we will make sure they are supported fully throughout this process.”
Meanwhile, poultry processor Avara has announced plans to close its Newent factory in a move that will impact all colleagues based at the site.