Kraft to close UK head office

American food giant Kraft is to close its Cheltenham head office in the wake of its controversial takeover of chocolate-maker Cadbury's.

Kraft said it will move its headquarters, which employs around 400 staff, in 2011, with management and employees moving over the next 18 months. The firm said it would start consulting with affected staff and hoped "as many as possible" would move.

Kraft said it planned to integrate its office network to be located at its Bournville site in Birmingham and at Uxbridge, north west London, which was the previous Cadbury head office.

Nick Bunker, president of Kraft Foods, said: "We would be very sad to leave Cheltenham and we would provide significant resources to support employees from all affected sites during the move. However, the business rationale is compelling.

"Having our R&D, customer service and support functions working side-by-side will enable us to share more insights, act more quickly and execute more flawlessly, thereby accelerating our growth.

"While the business case is clear, we need to support our people. We have highly talented employees across all our sites and we would aim to support as many as possible to relocate. We will consult fully with all affected individuals about the implications and options available before a final decision is taken and allow as much time as we can for people to plan."

Jennie Formby, national officer of Unite, complained she had only learned about the closure of the Cheltenham site from members of the media asking for her reaction.

"It is clear that Kraft have not learned the lessons from the select committee about communication with its employees because I only heard about this second hand."

Ms Formby said the Cheltenham closure, and the planned closure of two sites in Switzerland and Spain, was the beginning of a series of "savage cuts" as Kraft started to tackle debts.

"This is a very bad day for the hundreds of employees in Cheltenham affected by this decision. We are in urgent discussions with our colleagues in Europe as to what the combined trade union response should be."