Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has announced that it is to expand its Bramalea plant, located in Ontario, with a C$3.0m (US$2.5m) investment and the addition of 25 new jobs, but will close its Asheboro, North Carolina facility.

The expansion will further enhance the Bramalea facility's role as a strategic manufacturing plant within the food business in Unilever North America, the company said.

The move is part of an overall supply chain strategy that calls for simplification of the organisation globally in order to leverage scale, become more responsive and optimise cost structure.

As part of the North American consolidation in its food manufacturing business, Unilever will close its Asheboro, North Carolina facility, transferring all of that facility's retail production to Bramalea. The transfer of production will be completed by the end of 2006.

The Bramalea plant, which opened in 1963, currently employs approximately 325 people, manufacturing Lipton and Knorr soups and side dishes. At present, the facility produces soups for Canada and all side dishes for the North American market. With this expansion, the site will also be responsible for all the Lipton and Knorr soups for the North American market.

"With this expansion to serve the entire North American market, the Bramalea plant has been recognised as one of Unilever's premiere manufacturing facilities, producing cost competitive products of the highest quality and providing value to the consumer. We believe this move will strengthen the Lipton and Knorr brands in North America," said Jeffrey Allgrove, president of Unilever Canada.