Kraft questioned over Cadbury factory closure

Kraft questioned over Cadbury factory closure

Kraft Foods today (16 March) faced a committee of MPs to discuss the US food giant's takeover of UK confectioner Cadbury.

The Business, Innovations and Skills (BIS) committee, which is considering whether changes to the UK's takeover regulations should be considered, heard evidence from Kraft vice president Marc Firestone, alongside Cadbury president Trevor Bond and HR director Richard Doyle.

Unite, the union representing Cadbury workers, was also represented by deputy general secretary Jack Dromey.

Kraft has come under fire over its decision to close Cadbury's Somerdale chocolate factory in the south-west of England.

During the takeover battle for UK confectioner Cadbury, Kraft had said that it believed the factory – which Cadbury had planned to shutter – could be kept open.

However, shortly after the US firm had secured ownership of Cadbury, it announced that the site would be closed and production would be moved to Poland, in line with Cadbury's plans.

Kraft has argued it was unable to reverse Cadbury's decision but insisted it had no way of knowing this when it indicated it could keep the site open because the UK confectioner's books were not opened to the US group due to the hostile nature of its takeover approach.

This argument has repeatedly been rejected by Unite, which has argued the group was aware that it would push ahead with the closure but suggested otherwise to win support for its takeover bid.

According to the BBC, Firestone said he was "terribly sorry" for the firm's earlier pledge to keep the site open.

However, Firestone insisted that the company was sincere in its intentions and only realised that it would, in fact, have to close the site when it discovered Cadbury had already spent tens of millions of pounds kitting out its factory in Poland.

He reportedly said Kraft was "terribly disappointed" that it could not keep the plant open and offered assurances that there would be no further manufacturing closures in the UK for a period of two years.

However, when pressed by MPs, Firestone stopped short of committing to keep Cadbury's flagship factory in Bournville open indefinitely.

"Bournville remains at the heart of the Cadbury business. We intend to maintain it. We intend to invest in it. We intend to keep it competitive," he said.

Firestone added that Kraft would keep Cadbury's marketing and sales operations in the UK.