The company’s license to manufacture Aunt Bessie’s frozen potato products for the William Jackson Food Group will not be renewed at its end in April 2015, prompting the proposed closure of the factory in North Walsham.
With the license going to an alternative supplier, Heinz says there is not sufficient manufacturing volume to keep the factory operational.
Production at the factory is expected to cease between February and April next year.
Heinz 'fully appreciates and regrets' impact on community
A statement from Heinz UK says it is ‘deeply disappointed to have to make this announcement.’
“The closure proposal is only being made after thoroughly exploring extensive alternatives and options,” the company said.
“Heinz fully appreciates and regrets the impact this proposal may have on employees and the local community. It is not a reflection of the commitment of our employees or the quality of the Aunt Bessie’s products they have made since 1999.
“The proposal is subject to a 45 day consultation process with representatives of Heinz Westwick employees. During this period we will consider suggestions made by employee representatives and will continue to explore alternatives to avoid or limit the impact of a potential closure.
“We will also continue to explore all opportunities to find a buyer for the factory.”
Devastating news close to Christmas, says Unite
Trade union Unite is urging Heinz to think again and find a better option than closure.
Julia Long, national officer with responsibility for food manufacturing at Unite, said, “This is devastating news for the workforce, and so close to Christmas. 200 families face a very bleak time unless we can persuade Heinz to think again.
“It is particularly concerning that Heinz is planning only 45 days to consult on its closure plans. This is a direct consequence of the current government’s law change which allows companies to walk away from communities in a matter of weeks. We would urge Heinz to think again and work with us to find another solution.”
Heinz UK and Ireland
Aunt Bessie’s potato range includes roast potatoes, chips and crinkle chips, and croquettes.
The Westwick factory opened in 1948, and was acquired by HJ Heinz in 2000. Heinz spent £10.8m on the 45,527m2 site from 2007 as part of ‘Project Trafalgar.’
Heinz currently employs approximately 2,500 people in the UK and Ireland. Its main food manufacturing facility is in Kitt Green, near Wigan. It also has factories in Telford, Worcester, Kendal, and Dundalk (Ireland).