Published: 11:10, 30 December 2011
| Updated: 16:13, 17 January 2012
by James Scott
The British food manufacturer which owns the Batchelors factory in Ashford has revealed it could axe up to 600 jobs next year.
Premier Foods Plc is responsible for numerous household brands including Branston pickle and Birds custard.
The St Albans-based company, which runs the facility in Kennington Road (which describes itself as the home of Cup a Soup), said it plans to reduce its UK workforce of 12,000 employees by 5%.
Premier Foods chief executive officer Michael Clarke said: “We continue to deliver on our plans to stabilise the business and invest in our recovery and future growth.
“While decisions to reduce the workforce are always difficult, I’m convinced we are taking the right steps in the long term interests of the business, employees and our stakeholders.”
However it seems the job cuts, which are subject to a consultation process, are unlikely to seriously affect the Ashford plant as they are expected to focus on “overhead functions”, following the sale of Quorn and other parts of the business.
Company spokesman Tom Eckersley said administration workers were more likely to be the ones affected.
Premier Foods is reportedly struggling with repayments for an £850m debt and share prices fell from 34p to 5.75p last year.
The firm issued a statement saying that financial results for 2011 were lower than expected and as a result it needs to cut costs by £40m before 2013.
However it will also be investing in its eight “power” brands including Hovis, Ambrosia, Mr. Kipling, Bisto, Oxo and Batchelors.
The group plans to double marketing spend in 2012 and put six of its biggest brands back on TV, starting with Sharwood’s and Loyd Grossman adverts next month.
It will launch a full programme of new product innovation, promotions and marketing throughout the year.
The firm invested £25m in creating a new factory in Ashford which opened in spring 2009. The facility has more than 420 employees and produces up to 54,000 tonnes of food each year.
Products made at the site include Batchelors Cup a Soup, Bisto gravy and Paxo stuffing, curry sauce, cake and bread mixes and Vesta meals.