Jobs melt away at Cadbury's Bournville plant

16 January 2015 -


Parent company Kraft confirms plans to streamline factory and upgrading its technology base, days on from controversy over Creme Egg recipe

Jermaine Haughton

Bosses at much-loved British chocolate brand Cadbury have announced 250 job losses at its historic Bournville factory, as the firm continues its transition from an independent company to a division within US giant Kraft Foods – itself a wing of the Mondolez International conglomerate. As part of Kraft’s change-management plans for the Cadbury, 50 of the Birmingham plant’s workers have already departed, with another 200 set to depart over the next two years.

Senior Cadbury figures have reassured employees that none of the redundancies are compulsory. Meanwhile, trade union Unite reports that the workers are mostly in their mid-to-late 50s, and will be substantial compensated with average payoffs of £100,000.

Although Cadbury has lost its autonomy as an independent British brand, the company is a major part of Kraft’s $32 billion global snacks business and is one of the corporation’s major assets in its efforts to tap emerging markets, such as India. But almost five years on from its acquisition of Cadbury in a hostile takeover, Kraft has clarified its intentions to streamline the workforce – starting with the trademark plant, which dates back to 1879 and produces Dairy Milk bars, Creme Eggs and Roses. The chocolate brand had already closed its Somerdale factory near Bristol in 2011.

The cuts have coincided with a £75m investment in new equipment, which is replacing six, outdated production lines with four new ones powered by cutting-edge technology – a significant show of commitment to the site. Remaining staff will retrain so they can multitask on more than one production line. Unite confirmed that some will receive 2% pay rises once they have learned the necessary skills, on top of the annual pay awards. It is still negotiating pay rises for other workers.

With its current roster of 900 staff poised to decrease, the factory – according to Kraft – will now survive for at least another 25 years. A spokeswoman said: “We have been clear that to secure the £75 million investment and therefore the next generation of manufacturing at Bournville, we will need to become cost competitive. During consultation, we agreed that this would mean fewer people working in Bournville in the future than there are today.”

News of the job losses broke just days after from Kraft’s admission that it has changed the traditional recipe of Cadbury’s Creme Egg, from a Dairy Milk shell to one made of a “standard cocoa mix”. Pack sizes were also reduced from six to five. The changes triggered a social-media storm among British consumers who feared that all their favourite chocolate snacks would be stuffed with similarly generic flavours. One Creme Egg fanatic even wrote and sang a ballad expressing her disappointment (see below). Sales over the Easter period ought to confirm whether or not Cadbury has been damaged by the decision.

It calls to mind other notable recipe changes that have met with varying degrees of success and failure. Between 2008 and 2010, Dominos completely revamped the makeup of its pizzas from crust to topping, revitalising the business and applying significant pressure to major rival Pizza Hut – which recently decided to do the same thing. However, arguably the most famous example of a recipe change going disastrously wrong is that of soft drinks giant Coca-Cola. In 1985, the corporation tried to make its signature drink sweeter by re-launching it as “New Coke”. The launch was immediately followed by a strong public backlash and, less than three months later, the company announced it was backpedalling to the original recipe.

The agony and the eggs-tacy

A word in Kraft’s shell-like about tampering with treasured confectionery...

Image of Creme Egg courtesy of Julie Clopper / Shutterstock.

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