Premier Foods to axe 430 jobs as bread sales fall

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The Independent Online

Premier Foods is to close a bakery in Bradford and a depot in Telford with the loss of 430 jobs as the company struggles with declining bread sales.

Premier's British Bakeries division, which makes Hovis, Nimble and Mothers Pride, has announced plans to cease all manufacturing and support services at the Bradford bakery, although dispatch and logistics at the site will remain and be reorganised.

A British Bakeries spokesman said the decision to close the sites was not taken lightly. "The move reflects an overall fall in bread consumption, changing consumer habits and the increased self sufficiency of British Bakeries' operations in the south of England, resulting in a reduced requirement to transfer bread and morning goods down the country," he said.

In July, Premier, which also makes Quorn and Branston Pickle, said it may have to raise the price of its Hovis-branded breads after taking a hit from higher wheat costs. The company said at the time it had been particularly affected by the hot weather in April but added that the "return to a more normal British summer" had improved performance as shoppers stocked up on comfort foods, such as cakes and soups.

The company is in talks over the sale of its frozen foods business, which it acquired with the £1.2bn purchase of Mr Kipling and Bisto maker RHM in December. The unit generates annual sales of £50m and makes ready-meals, pies and desserts for supermarkets' own brand products. Earlier this year, Premier announced the closure of a further six factories, provoking the anger of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

British Bakeries operates from 23 manufacturing and distribution sites, employing 6,500 people. The spokesman added: "We understand the impact these proposals will have on those affected and will work with them to ensure the reasons for these proposals and the options open to them are fully understood."

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