German dairy giant Müller has confirmed that its Foston dairy in Derbyshire in the English Midlands is to close with 223 employees likely to lose their jobs.

The move, first mooted in April, was confirmed today (1 July) in a statement from MMI.

It has confirmed it is to wind down production at Foston, which is likely to cease operations by the end of the year with processing absorbed by other Müller dairies.

The decision follows a 45 day statutory review of the company’s dairy network which “examined factory utilisation against a backdrop of declining consumption of fresh milk and significant changes in retailing”.

During the review, the Foston dairy was identified to be most at risk “due to its size and inability to absorb significant production volume from other dairies, its current level of utilisation and its geographical position relative to customers”, Müller said.

The consultation included discussions with employees, unions and other employee representatives.

Müller suggested most dairy farmers who supply Foston will be unaffected with milk switched to be processed at other dairies, but it said it would be in contact in the next week with a small number of farmers located in areas not close to other dairies in the company’s network to “consider future options” for their milk.

Patrick Müller, chief executive at the company’s Müller Milk & Ingredients arm, said: “We fully recognise that this decision will be devastating for our employees at Foston, but if we are to have any prospect of building a fresh milk business which is sustainable in the short and longer term, we need to make significant changes to reduce our costs.

“MMI has the best invested network in our industry. But we must adapt quickly to meet the realities of a changing market. Inaction is not an option and would place at risk the future viability of fresh milk, long regarded as a staple of the nation’s fridges.”

The dairy network review was part of Müller’s Project Darwin transformation programme which aims to “secure a vibrant and sustainable future for the business through cost reduction and margin improvement”.

The writing was on the wall for the Foston site in April when trade union Usdaw said it had been told by Müller the dairy was the one most likely to close.

Other UK sites reviewed were located in Severnside in Gloucestershire, Bellshill in Scotland, a facility in Manchester, another in Droitwich in the West Midlands, as well as one Bridgwater in Somerset.