A spokesman for Northern Foods told FoodManufacture.co.uk seven of the 10 job losses were voluntary, and that the redundancies were not linked in any way to Ranjit Boparan’s recent takeover.
Instead, he said the move followed Northern’s decision last October to merge its frozen and bakery businesses into a brands division, as well as the £26.5m automation drive ‘Project Golden’ at Fox’s Biscuits (from November 2009), which yielded knowledge the firm is now applying to Holland’s.
Local fears about move
Local fears have arisen as a result that Holland’s may move from its Hyndburn Village site in Accrington.
Hyndburn Borough councillor Terry Hurn, who represents the Baxenden ward where the factory is based, told FoodManufacture.co.uk that he was worried by the changes at Holland’s – which include the recent departure of md Ed Hyslop – given the recent movement at Northern Foods.
Hurn said he fears that Hyndburn could lose an iconic pie brand that has been based in the area for over 100 years, in the event that Boparan decided to shift production elsewhere.
In 2007 Northern announced plans to switch production of some pastry products to Ireland at the cost of 50 jobs (as a part of the firm’s merger with the frozen pie arm of Irish brand Green Isle under a common management team) but later ditched the idea.
Said Hurn: “It’s worrying when a firm gets taken over, what the new owners plan to do. Holland’s is a leading light in the area (aside from Accrington Stanley F.C) and it makes us well-known. It would be a disaster if the firm left the area.”
Strong northwest brand
Asked about these concerns, the Northern Foods spokesman said: “Holland’s has been a strong brand in the northwest [of England] for 160 years – long may it continue.”
There have been rumours that Boparan could seek to sell Holland’s, given the need for a multi-million pound capital expenditure project to upgrade a site built in 1907, although a source close to the firm said that a £10-20m figure reported to be necessary was “grossly exaggerated”.
Hurn said he wasn’t aware of any sale talk, but said: “We really want someone with a bit of passion on the food side, who can invest a bit and get the business back to its original standard.”