Cadbury's and Kraft chiefs under fire from angry MPs
Tuesday 16 March 2010
Executives from Cadbury's and its new American owner came under fire from angry MPs today amid uncertainty about the chocolate-maker's future in the UK.
Marc Firestone, executive vice-president of US food giant Kraft, and Cadbury's president Trevor Bond were repeatedly challenged about their long-term commitment to Bournville as they appeared before the Commons Business Select Committee.
They insisted that they intended to keep production in Britain but stopped short of any specific long-term commitments.
Asked exactly how many years Kraft planned to maintain production at the Birmingham base, Mr Firestone said: "Bournville remains at the heart of the Cadbury business and we intend to maintain it, we intend to invest in it, we intend to ensure that it remains competitive."
Mr Bond also said that the company needed to keep its UK operations "competitive"
Asked specifically whether Cadbury's Dairy Milk would continue to be produced in the UK, he said: "Yes."
Pressed as to how long for, he added: "For as long as our consumers are delighted by the product and the taste that we produce."
Tory MP Brian Binley, a member of the cross-party committee, interrupted: "That simply is not good enough for the workforce."
Fellow committee member Lindsay Hoyle, a Labour MP, said Kraft had made the same promises to Terry's of York before moving production of the Chocolate Orange to Poland.
He accused Kraft of doing "exactly the same" to York as the Vikings, saying: "They pillaged and asset-stripped that company."
Thousands of British workers have been left fearing for their jobs after Kraft's multi-billion pound takeover, especially as the American firm changed its mind about keeping open the Somerdale factory near Bath.
Kraft had said it would keep the plant open, but later changed its mind, saying it would close after all, with the loss of 400 jobs.
The company chiefs today insisted there were no plans to rebrand Cadbury's products.
"We have no plans to rename Cadbury's Creme Egg or Cadbury's Dairy Milk into anything else," Mr Bond said.
"They are great brands that our consumers love, that our factories produce to a really high standard, and we intend to keep up providing consumers with the products and the brands that they love."
Mr Firestone added: "It's absolutely our plan to preserve the identity of the brands themselves as well as the identity of the company itself.
"It's absolutely our intention that Cadbury will remain the name on the building, that Cadbury will remain the name on the flag."
Mr Firestone later promised that there would be no manufacturing job losses at Cadbury for the next two years.
He said that, having listened to unions, MPs and the Press, it was "clear that our reputation requires action more than words".
"First, I will say that we can commit that, for a period of at least two years, there will be no further closures of manufacturing facilities in the United Kingdom," he said.
"I can also commit that, beyond any programmes that I mentioned that have already been negotiated and announced, there will be no further compulsory redundancies of manufacturing employees in the United Kingdom.
"These are statements I believe are helpful in removing a cloud of uncertainty and creating an atmosphere where we truly do, as Kraft, want to regain the trust of our colleagues, of the Government, of the public."
Mr Firestone said Kraft wanted to "move beyond the controversy" and develop a "stronger growth platform" in the years ahead.
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