Britvic managing director Paul Graham explains thinking behind move to close Norwich factory
Lauren De Boise
Britvic bosses have defended their decision to close the company’s Norwich factory, saying that efficiencies are necessary to meet the changing needs of consumers.
The closure of the factory has prompted a review at Unilever, which makes Colman’s Mustard and sauces at the shared site, meaning that up to 355 jobs could be on the line. A campaign to save the jobs has already gathered more than 3,000 signatures.
Paul Graham, Britvic’s GB managing director, has explained more about the reasons behind the proposed closure.
Why has this decision been made?
PG: “We have conducted a detailed review of our manufacture and logistics operations. There were two key reasons that came out for the proposal that we put forward.
“The first was the consolidation of our manufacturing of Robinsons and Fruit Shoot to our sites in Rugby, Leeds and East London which better suits the supply of our customer base and also saves significantly in terms of road miles and also, from an environmental perspective, carbon emissions.
“The second is that the capability and efficiency sets us up to meet the changing needs of consumers to protect the long-term health and future of the business.”
What are those changing needs?
PG: “Two key overarching themes are a move towards healthier products and a move towards ‘premium-isation’.
“Robinsons and Fruit Shoot both are no added sugar products, so both fall [beneath the threshold for the] sugar levy, so we have already made moves in terms of that direction. But the ability to ‘premium-ise’ our product going forward is better served at our other sites.”
But Mr Graham said those sites would be in the UK, concentrating on a “spine” of central locations.
“We announced in 2015 a £240m capital programme to transform that supply chain. We are committed to being a GB manufacturer and we are also committed to continuing to produce Robinsons and Fruit Shoot in the GB pathway.”
Is the factory profitable?
PG: “It is a profitable site. This is a very difficult decision for us to take, and today is really about communicating with our staff on site.”
How are you supporting staff?
PG: “There are two ways we will seek to support our staff.
“[First,] within creation of jobs in sites down the spine of the country, and we will look to relocate staff from these sites into those sites if it is suitable for them.
“We also recognise that might not be applicable or suitable in every case and when that is the case we will lean on our placement support to help those other people find alternative employment.
“We have some long-serving, dedicated, well trained, highly skilled staff on site that we will look to retain in Britvic operations if we can.”
When was the decision made?
PG: “We are always looking at our cost base but the proposal was only signed off by our board on Monday night.”
What is the message to staff here in Norwich?
PG: “The message to staff is we appreciate this is a sad day for the Norwich site but as a business we will keep that communication open, engage fully and we will provide assistance for them over the coming months.”